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Oklahoma's Pro-Life Governor Vetoes Bill that Would Jail Abortion Doctors

Republican Mary Fallin said she had to veto the bill because it wouldn't suffer scrutiny by federal courts.

by Sarah Mimms
May 20 2016, 9:25pm

Photo by Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

In a surprise move on Friday, Oklahoma's Republican Governor Mary Fallin vetoed legislation that would have made abortions punishable by up to three years in prison.

Fallin, an anti-abortion conservative who has signed numerous bills restricting the procedure, said in a statement on Friday that she could not sign the measure because it was too "vague" and "would not withstand a criminal constitutional legal challenge." (The statement also referred to Fallin as "the most pro-life governor in the nation").

The bill, passed by the Oklahoma state Senate on Thursday, would have made it illegal for doctors to perform abortion procedures in the state, imposing a term of up to three years in prison. The measure also sought to revoke the medical licenses of doctors who performed abortions.

The bill included an exception for the life of the mother, but not for rape or incest.

Related: Doctors Could Face Jail Time for Performing Abortions in Oklahoma

Abortion rights advocates and legal experts said that the bill was unconstitutional, while several pro-choice groups threatened to sue the already cash-strapped state if Fallin signed the measure into law.

Fallin, who is a supporter of Donald Trump and has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate, was expected to sign the measure, given her pro-life record. But the governor said Friday that the bill was too "ambiguous" in defining "what medical circumstances would be considered 'necessary to preserve the life of the mother.'"

"While I consistently have and continue to support a re-examination of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, this legislation cannot accomplish that re-examination," Fallin wrote in her veto statement.

Follow Sarah Mimms on Twitter: @SarahMMimms