OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law the nation’s toughest abortion ban on Wednesday, making the state the first in the nation to effectively end the procedure’s availability.
State lawmakers approved the ban through civil suits rather than criminal prosecutions, similar to a Texas law passed last year. The law takes effect immediately upon Stitt’s signing and prohibits all abortions with a few exceptions. Abortion providers have said they will stop performing the procedure as soon as the bill is signed into law.
“I promised the people of Oklahom that as governor I would sign every piece of pro-life legislation that came across my desk and I am proud to keep that promise today,” said the Republican of first term in a press release. “From the moment life begins at conception, we have a responsibility as human beings to do everything we can to protect the life of this baby and the life of the mother. That’s what I believe and that is what the majority of Oklahomaians believe.”
Abortion providers across the country have braced for the possibility that the new conservative US Supreme Court majority will further restrict the practice, and this has been particularly the case in Oklahoma and Texas.
“The impact will be disastrous for Oklahomans,” said Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst for abortion rights supporting the Guttmacher Institute. “It will also have severe ripple effects, especially for patients from Texas who traveled to Oklahoma in large numbers after Texas’ six-week abortion ban went into effect in September. .”
The bills are part of an aggressive push in Republican-led states to slash abortion rights. This follows a leaked draft opinion from the country’s High Court which suggests judges are considering watering down or overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade who legalized abortion almost 50 years ago.
The only exceptions to Oklahoma law are to save the life of a pregnant woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.
The bill specifically allows doctors to remove an ‘unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion’ or miscarriage, or to remove an ectopic pregnancy, a life-threatening emergency that occurs when a fertilized egg implants. outside the uterus, often in a fallopian tube. and early in pregnancy.
The law also does not apply to the use of morning after pills such as Plan B or any type of contraception.
Two of Oklahoma’s four abortion clinics have already stopped offering abortions after the governor signed a six-week ban earlier this month.
With the state’s two remaining abortion clinics set to stop offering services, it’s unclear what will happen to women who qualify for one of the exceptions. The author of the law, State Representative Wendi Stearman, says doctors will be empowered to decide which women are eligible and that those abortions will be performed in hospitals. But providers and abortion rights activists warn that trying to prove their qualification could prove difficult, even dangerous in certain circumstances.
Along with the Texas-style bill already signed into law, the measure is one of at least three anti-abortion bills sent to Stitt this year.
The Oklahoma law is modeled after a unique Texas law that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed to remain in place that allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman to have an abortion. Other Republican-led states have sought to copy Texas’ ban. Idaho’s governor signed the first copycat measure in March, though it was temporarily blocked by the state Supreme Court
Oklahoma’s third bill is due to take effect this summer and would make it a crime to perform an abortion, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. This bill contains no exception for rape or incest.