Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry late Wednesday vetoed an abortion bill that would put strict limits on when private health insurers can cover the procedure.
The bill includes exceptions for cases of rape, incest or to prevent the death of the mother. Coverage for abortions could be obtained through a separate supplemental policy.
The bill is meant to prevent state insurance exchanges, created under the new federal health care law, from covering most abortions, said state Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow. But it also extends the ban to health insurance plans outside state exchanges that operate within Oklahoma.
Henry, a Democrat, said the legislation would punish victims of rape or incest by prohibiting insurance coverage for an abortion if they did not report the crime within a certain time period.
"Rape and incest victims should be treated with dignity and respect, not subjected to a state-imposed Catch-22 that denies them insurance coverage at such a critical time," Henry said in his veto message. "HB 3290 creates an unconstitutional barrier to legal medical treatment protected by this nation's highest court and would result in an expensive lawsuit and potentially futile legal battle for the state."
Since Obama signed health care legislation in March, at least two states — Arizona and Tennessee — have enacted laws restricting abortion coverage by health plans in new insurance markets, called exchanges. The exchanges will be set up starting in 2014 to serve individuals and small businesses.
McNiel said she wasn't surprised the governor vetoed the bill. She planned to discuss with House leaders whether lawmakers should try to override the veto before Friday's deadline for the Legislature to adjourn.
"We're down to the deadline," she said. "It's a key bill for pro-lifers, so I'll seek leadership's advice and opinion."
The bill is the fourth abortion-related measure approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature and vetoed by the governor this year. Anti-abortion Democrats in the House and Senate have joined with Republicans to override Henry's three previous vetoes.
An override would require 68 votes in the House and 32 in the Senate. The bill passed 70-12 in the House and 32-13 in the Senate.
Henry signed four other abortion bills into law.
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