During a floor debate on a bill to prohibit abortion in cases when the fetus shows signs of Down Syndrome or another genetic disorder, Oklahoma state Rep. George Faught (R-Muskogee) also addressed instances when babies are born out of rape or incest. (Oklahoma Legislature)

In defending his controversial antiabortion legislation, Oklahoma state Rep. George Faught said that even in pregnancies that result from rape or incest, “God can bring beauty from ashes.”

Faught made the statement during a debate on the Oklahoma House floor earlier this week. Faught’s bill, which overwhelmingly passed the House on Tuesday, would outlaw abortions sought by women based solely on a diagnosis of Down syndrome or other genetic abnormalities. A fellow lawmaker criticized the Republican from Muskogee for not including an exception for pregnancies that resulted from rape and incest.

In a heated exchange, Rep. Cory Williams (D-Stillwater) asked Faught whether rape or incest is the “will of God.”

“Well, you know, if you read the Bible, there’s actually a couple of circumstances where that happened. And the Lord uses all circumstances. I mean, you can get on that path, but you know it’s a reality, unfortunately,” Faught said, adding that rape and incest have nothing to do with his legislation.

Williams fired back, saying that because Faught is “proffering divine intervention” as the reasons he won’t include exceptions for rape and incest, fellow lawmakers deserve to know whether he believes that such acts are God’s will.

Oklahoma state Rep. George Faught (R). (Oklahoma legislature's website) Oklahoma state Rep. George Faught (R) (Oklahoma Legislature)

“You know, it’s a great question to ask,” Faught responded. “And obviously if it happens in someone’s life, it may not be the best thing that ever happened. … So you’re saying that God is not sovereign with every activity that happens in someone’s life and can’t use anything and everything in someone’s life, and I disagree with that.”

Faught’s remarks have drawn criticisms on social media. In tweeting a story about the bill, the Center for Reproductive Rights wrote: “Our job is to make sure a woman’s deeply personal decision is never at the mercy of lawmakers like this.”

“Then by his logic, murder is an act of God, all religious beliefs should be kept out of law making,” a Twitter user wrote in response to the center’s tweet.

Efforts to reach Faught for comment Saturday were unsuccessful.

H.B. 1549, which would create the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2017, would penalize doctors for performing abortions sought because of Down syndrome or other abnormalities. Doctors’ medical licenses would be suspended or revoked, and they would face steep fines: $10,000 for the first violation, $50,000 for the second, and $100,000 for the third and succeeding violations.

Women who sought abortions would not be held liable.

Faught during the debate on Tuesday said he introduced the legislation because of his belief about “protecting life.”

“For me, the pressure doesn’t come from the party; it comes from my heart, and what I believe about God and what I believe about life,” Faught said. ” … Do we value life, or do we just value a perfect life?

“God can bring beauty out of ashes, as he has time and time again,” he added, addressing questions about rape and incest.

The debate on the bill lasted for almost two hours. Democrats argued that the bill is not only unconstitutional but also a waste of the legislature’s time.

“Please start doing something that is more than a bumper sticker. Do something that makes an impact,” Williams said in his closing statement, adding that state lawmakers have continually failed to address other issues, such as services for people with disabilities. “Truly I tell you, how you treat the least among us is how you’ve treated the God that you profess to worship.”

Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman) argued that challenges such as discrimination, lack of employment and lack of services that children with Down syndrome face after they are born are far more pressing and deserving of government action.

Faught said the private sector, including community groups and ministries, are already providing services to children with Down syndrome.

“We’ve spent a lot of time on a lot of issues,” Faught said. “I think there’s a lot of people in this body that think this is an important issue: protecting life.”

One of those people is Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw), who invoked the Bible in his impassioned speech supporting the bill.

“Wow, I mean really? I heard statements — ‘Why are we wasting our time on a pro-life bill up here? We need to worry about the budget,'” Bennett said. “Well, let me ask you this. Which is more important to you? Money or life? I mean, come on. The argument shouldn’t even be there. Life is the most important thing that we can work on up here.”

H.B. 1549 passed the House 67 to 16 and is now in the Senate.

North Dakota was the first to ban abortions based on genetic anomalies in 2013.

Indiana followed last year, when then-Gov. Mike Pence signed similar legislation into law as doctors grappled with how the measures could affect their patients, The Washington Post’s Danielle Paquette wrote.

“It will require a woman, during one of the most devastating times in her life after learning of a fetal anomaly, to prolong her pregnancy even if against her wishes, and to potentially assume the greater health risks associated with doing so,” Brownsyne Tucker Edmonds, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Indiana, said in a statement last year.

Pence called the Indiana legislation “a comprehensive pro-life measure that affirms the value of all human life.”

Shortly after the Indiana legislation became law, a federal judge blocked it from going into effect, finding that it would violate Supreme Court precedents that protect a woman’s right to choose abortion, the Indianapolis Star reported.

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