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The Republican-led Oklahoma state House has passed a near-total ban on abortion, excluding specific instances where the pregnant person’s life is endangered.
Under the bill, anyone who performs an abortion would face up to 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
“The Oklahoma Supreme Court has found time and time again that the state’s attempts to restrict abortion are unconstitutional, as this total abortion ban clearly is,” Rabia Muqaddam, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.
Stitt has made abortions his issue. It’s not.
The bill will now head to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has previously described himself as America’s “most pro-life governor.”
Tamya Cox-Touré, executive director, ACLU of Oklahoma stated, “The only person who should have the power to decide whether you need an abortion is you — no matter where you live, or how much money you make.”
The ban would go into effect 90 days after the state legislature adjourns at the end of May unless courts intervene. Reproductive rights groups are expected to file legal challenges to the ban, which many are calling unconstitutional.
Roe v. Wade’s loophole impacts women in the worst way
The US Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade recognized a pregnant person’s fundamental right to seek an abortion but allowed states to impose restrictions on the procedure with the intent of protecting the pregnant person’s health and the potential life of a fetus once it can survive outside the womb.
Planned Parenthood Great Plains Interim President and CEO Emily Wales said Stitt’s Senate Bill 612 is “clearly unconstitutional.”
Advocates believe the abortion bill is retaliation.
The bill’s passage came as a surprise to abortion rights advocates in the state, who saw it as a political statement in response to their “Bans Off Oklahoma” rally at the state capitol on Tuesday.
According to Vox, the surprising measure was “put on the agenda on Tuesday, fairly late in the legislative session, and passed that same day with little time for debate.” With such underhanded tactics, advocates for women’s rights know the road ahead will be rough.
In a statement by Rebecca Tong, co-executive director of Trust Women, she said, “There are difficult times ahead, and we’ve been through so much already. No Oklahoman deserves the type of disconnected and cruel representation that is happening behind the closed doors of the state capitol.”
“This bill kind of came out of nowhere,” said Tamya Cox-Touré, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. “This was a direct reflection of the fact that 350 people gathered to demand that abortion access is protected. And this was their retaliation.”
Oklahoma is full of ghost towns for those seeking safe abortions.
To date, there are only four abortion facilities across the entire Sooner state, which have seen soaring increases since last September, when neighboring Texas enacted a ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
Trust Women — which operates a clinic in Oklahoma City that provides medication and surgical abortions up to the current legal limit of 21.6 weeks — has seen a 2,500 percent increase in patients and regularly has extensive waiting lists.
Priya Desai of Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice stated, “The harm from this legislation will fall the hardest on communities already facing the greatest challenges in our health care system including people of color, immigrants, trans and nonbinary people, rural people, and young people.”
The state Senate has already passed the so-called Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, which is a copycat of a Texas ban allowing any private individual to sue doctors who perform abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected (typically about six weeks into term) except in the case of a medical emergency.
The state House is debating that bill in committee today.