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Okla. governor vetoes sweeping abortion ban bill

OKLAHOMA CITY - Governor Mary Fallin on Thursday vetoed a measure that would have banned abortion in the state, because the bill was vague and would not withstand a criminal constitutional legal challenge, reports CBS affiliate News9 in Oklahoma City.

Senate Bill 1552 would have made it a felony for physicians to perform abortions. It also contained a provision to revoke their medical licenses unless the abortion was necessary to save the life of the mother.

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In this Wednesday, May 18, 2016 photo, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin walks on the floor of the Oklahoma House in Oklahoma City. A bill awaiting Fallin's signature that would make it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion has been described by critics as the first of its kind in the nation. AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

"The bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered 'necessary to preserve the life of the mother,'" Fallin said.

"The absence of any definition, analysis or medical standard renders this exception vague, indefinite and vulnerable to subjective interpretation and application," she wrote in her veto message.

"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 fact, the most direct path to a re-examination of the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade is the appointment of a conservative, pro-life justice to the United States Supreme Court."

Lawmakers can still attempt a veto override, which requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm, said the measure was aimed at ultimately overturning the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Dahm said he was considering whether to try to override the governor's veto, which would require a two-thirds majority in each chamber, a threshold it did not meet in the House when it first passed. The bill passed on a 33-12 vote in the Senate with no debate on Thursday; it passed 59-9 in the 101-member House on April 21.

"Of course I'll consider it," Dahm said. "I'm weighing my options."

The bill would have made it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison for anyone who performs an abortion, including doctors. State law already makes it a felony for anyone who's not a doctor to perform an abortion, and Dahm's bill would have removed the exemption for physicians.

The bill, which abortion-rights group Center for Reproductive Rights said was the first of its kind in the nation, also would restrict any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine in Oklahoma. Dahm had said Thursday after the bill's passage that he hoped it could lead to overturning Roe v. Wade.

"Since I believe life begins at conception, it should be protected, and I believe it's a core function of state government to defend that life from the beginning of conception," said Dahm, from Broken Arrow.

But abortion-rights supporters - and the state's medical association - said the bill was unconstitutional.

Sen. Ervin Yen, an Oklahoma City Republican and the only physician in the Senate, described the measure as "insane" and voted against it.

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