Oklahoma Approves the Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Ban

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s Legislature gave final approval Thursday to another Texas-style anti-abortion bill that providers say will be the most restrictive in the nation once the governor signs it.

It is one of several aggressive efforts by Republican-led state legislatures across the nation to restrict abortion rights. The bill comes just days after a draft opinion leaked by the U.S. Supreme Court suggests that justices may be considering weakening, or even overturning Roe v. Wade’s landmark decision which legalized abortion almost 50 years ago.

Collinsville Republican Rep. Wendi Stewartman proposed a bill that would ban all abortions except for those necessary to save a woman’s life or when it is reported to law enforcement.

“Is our goal to defend the right to life or isn’t it?” Stearman asked her colleagues before the bill passed on a 73-16 vote mostly along party lines.

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It is among at least three bills that were sent to Oklahoma’s governor this year. Kevin Stitt, who has indicated he’ll sign it. A Texas-style bill banning abortions after heart activity is detected in the embryo (which experts estimate to be about six weeks), has already taken effect. This has drastically curtailed Oklahoma’s practice. A second bill, which will take effect in the summer, would make abortion a crime punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment. This bill does not include any exceptions for incest or rape.

“At this point, we are preparing for the most restrictive environment politicians can create: a complete ban on abortion with likely no exceptions,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which stopped providing abortions at two of its Oklahoma clinics after the six-week ban took effect earlier this month. “It’s the worst-case scenario for abortion care in the state of Oklahoma.”

As with the Texas law the Oklahoma bill allows private citizens to sue any provider of abortion or person who assists a woman in obtaining an abortion. After the U.S. Supreme Court allowed that mechanism to remain in place, other Republican-led states sought to copy Texas’ ban. Idaho’s governor signed the first copycat measure in March, although it has been temporarily blocked by the state’s Supreme Court.

Texas’s bill passed in Texas last year. This led to a drastic decrease in abortions. Women are now more likely to travel from Texas and Oklahoma for their procedure.

Oklahoma has legal challenges against both the Texas bill for criminalizing abortion and the Oklahoma ban on six weeks in Texas. But the courts have failed to stop the measure.

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