Oklahoma governor vetoes bill to jail abortion doctors

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Oklahoma Anti-Abortion Bill Vetoed

May 20 (Reuters) - Oklahoma's Republican Governor Mary Fallin vetoed a bill calling for prison terms of up the three years for doctors who performed abortions, saying the legislation would not withstand a criminal constitutional legal challenge, her office said on Friday.

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The bill, which was approved a day earlier in the Republican-dominated legislature, would have made performing an abortion a felony. It also called for revoking the license of any doctor who conducted one.

The bill allowed an exemption for an abortion necessary to save the life of the mother.

"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, in a statement from her office, where she was described as "the most pro-life governor in the nation."

Abortion rights groups had promised a bruising legal battle if the bill were signed into law, which would have resulted in an expensive legal battle.

Cash-strapped Oklahoma is battling a $1.3 billion budget hole that has caused it to cut education funding and other state programs.

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Had the bill been approved, the state would have been the first to use its codes of professional conduct to implement a measure that would effectively serve as an abortion ban, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which backs abortion rights but whose data is used by both sides of the debate.

Other states that have tried to impose outright abortion bans after the Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision have seen their laws struck down by courts, it said.

Supporters have said the bill could withstand a legal challenge because the state was within its rights to set licensing requirement for doctors.

Legal experts have said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that abortion is legal in the United States and Oklahoma must abide by the court's decision.

Since Fallin took office in 2011, Oklahoma has been one of the leaders in adding restrictions to abortions.

"Governor Fallin did the right thing today in vetoing this utterly unconstitutional and dangerous bill," said Nancy Northup, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion rights group.

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Oklahoma governor vetoes bill to jail abortion doctors
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: Activists participate in the 2016 March for Life January 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. The annual event marked the anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Pro-abortion activists gather in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, 0n January 22, 2016 as the country marks the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v Wasde Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
A young anti-abortion activist chants slogans during a march to the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, 0n January 22, 2016 as the country marks the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Anti-abortion demonstrators take part in a rally, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
An anti-abortion demonstrator holds a sign and a flower while cheering during a rally, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 21: Right to Life advocates pray during a sit-in in front of a proposed Planned Parenthood location while demonstrating the group's opposition to congressional funding of Planned Parenthood on September 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Right to Life groups who took part in the protest are also calling on Pope Francis to 'address the pro-life issue and the defunding of Planned Parenthood' when he addresses Congress on September 24. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY, UNITED STATES - 2015/08/22: Assembly of some 150 anti-abortion protesters behind barricade in front of Planned Parenthood. A coalition of anti-abortion protesters protested on Mott Street in Manhattan in front of Planned Parenthood. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: U.S. Capitol Police stand guard after pro-choice activists blocked the street and temporarily stopped the annual March for Life in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pro-life activists gathered in the nation's capital to mark the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: A pro-life activist holds a sign as he participates in the annual March for Life January 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pro-life activists gathered in the nation's capital to mark the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: Pro-choice activists shout slogans before the annual March for Life passes by the U.S. Supreme Court January 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pro-life activists gathered in the nation's capital to mark the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: Pro-life activists participate in the annual March for Life as they pass in front of the U.S. Capitol January 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pro-life activists gathered in the nation's capital to mark the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: Pro-life activists try to block pro-choice activists as the annual March for Life passes by in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pro-life activists gathered in the nation's capital to mark the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: Pro-choice activists block the street and temporarily stop the annual March for Life in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 22, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pro-life activists gathered in the nation's capital to mark the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
A pro-choice activists holds a placard in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, January 22, 2015, as she and others await the pro-choice activists with the March For Life. Tens of thousands of Americans who oppose abortion are in Washington for the annual March for Life, marking the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-choice activists block the road against US Capitol Police, who are escorting the March For Life's path, in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, January 22, 2015. Tens of thousands of Americans who oppose abortion are in Washington for the annual March for Life, marking the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A pro-choice activist is arrested and carried away by US Capitol police after blocking the road against the March For Life's path in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, January 22, 2015. Tens of thousands of Americans who oppose abortion are in Washington for the annual March for Life, marking the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: Anti-abortion advocates stage a 'die-in' protest at Lafayette Square near the White House January 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. In a written statement on Tuesday, the Obama administration denounced a GOP-backed bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks and suggested the President would veto H. R. 36 - Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act if the bill reached his desk. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Anti-abortion activists take part in the annual 'March for Life' rally on January 22, 2015 in Washington DC. AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 30: Anti-abortion advocates cheer in front of the Supreme Court after the decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores was announced June 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled 5-4 that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Pro-life activists gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court June 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. The court overturned today a Massachusetts law barring protests within 35 feet of abortion clinics. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Pro-life activists gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court June 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. The court overturned today a Massachusetts law barring protests within 35 feet of abortion clinics. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Supporters of Women's Rights and LGBT groups protest across from the Beverly Hills Hotel, owned by the Sultan of Brunei, demanding he rescind a Taliban-like Brunei penal code which included the stoning to death of gay men and lesbians and the public flogging of women who have abortions, on May 5 2014 in Beverly Hills, California, before the arrival of Jay Leno who spoke in support of the groups. The southeast Asian nation of Brunei, a would-be member of the Obama administrations Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, is under fire from Hollywood and human rights activists for adopting a brutal penal code based on Sharia law with punishments including flogging, dismemberment and death by stoning for crimes such as adultery and sodomy. AFP PHOTO / Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
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