OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma House gave final legislative approval on Tuesday to a bill that would make performing an abortion a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
With little discussion and no debate, the Republican-controlled House voted 70-14 to send the bill to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has previously said he’d sign any anti-abortion bill that comes to his desk.
The bill is one of several anti-abortion measures still alive in Oklahoma’s Legislature this year, part of a trend of GOP-led states passing aggressive anti-abortion legislation as the conservative U.S. Supreme Court is considering ratcheting back abortion rights that have been in place for nearly 50 years.
Last year’s Oklahoma Senate bill made an exception for abortions that were performed to preserve the life of the mother. This was said by Jim Olsen of Roland who sponsored it. The bill would allow a person guilty of an abortion to be sentenced to up 10 years imprisonment or a $100,000 fine.
“The penalties are for the doctor, not for the woman,” Olsen said.
Similar anti-abortion bills approved by the Oklahoma Legislature and in other conservative states in recent years have been stopped by the courts as unconstitutional, but anti-abortion lawmakers have been buoyed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow new Texas abortion restrictions to remain in place. The new Texas law, the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the U.S. in decades, leaves enforcement up to private citizens, who are entitled to collect what critics call a “bounty” of $10,000 if they bring a successful lawsuit against a provider or anyone who helps a patient obtain an abortion. Similar legislation is being pursued in several states this year, including Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma bill’s passage came on the same day as more than 100 people attended a “Bans Off Oklahoma” rally outside the Capitol in support of abortion rights.
“These legislators have continued their relentless attacks on our freedoms,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. “These restrictions are not about improving the safety of the work that we do. They are about shaming and stigmatizing people who need and deserve abortion access.”
Wales said Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic in Oklahoma has seen an 800% increase in the number of women from Texas after that state passed its new anti-abortion law last year.
Texas law prohibits abortion after cardiac activity has been detected. This is usually about six weeks into a pregnancy. There are no exceptions for cases of incest or rape.
The Oklahoma House also adopted Tuesday a resolution in recognition of the loss of life due to abortion. It encouraged citizens to raise flags at half staff on January 22, 1973, when the abortion was legalized by the Supreme Court in Roe V. Wade.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of state Rep. Jim Olsen’s name.
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