The Oklahoma State House voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation making performing an abortion in the state a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison in what may be the most restrictive anti-abortion law passed since the US Supreme Court first announced its willingness to restrict reproductive rights last year.
The law, which would punish any Oklahoman who performs an abortion with a long jail term and a fine of up to $100,000, passed the Senate last year before passing the state by a 70-14 margin on Tuesday House sailed.
Gov. Kevin Stitt is expected to sign the law into law. By law, the only circumstance in Oklahoma that anyone can perform an abortion is to save the mother’s life.
“Oklahoma has had an opportunity to lead the way in protecting access in the region, rather than duplicating itself with cruel and harmful laws. These restrictions are rooted in white supremacy, patriarchy and bigotry,” said Priya Desai of the Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice. “The damage from this legislation will hit hardest the communities already facing the greatest challenges in our healthcare system, including people of color, immigrants, transgender and non-binary people, rural residents and young people.”
The bill will likely serve as another test of the Supreme Court’s willingness to overturn the bill Deer vs Wade Judgment that legalized abortion throughout the United States in 1973. While states like Texas have banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, this law would ban abortion in almost all cases from the moment of conception.
Opponents of abortion have reason to believe Deer vs Wade is acutely threatened. The six-judge conservative majority of the Supreme Court has responded positively at hearings to a Mississippi law banning abortions after fifteen weeks and has repeatedly declined to intervene to stop the Texas law that was passed last fall and Increased demand for services at Planned Parenthood locations in neighboring Oklahoma.
Soon, Texans who don’t have access to reproductive health care in their home state probably won’t be able to travel north to Oklahoma for it either.
The Oklahoma state legislature has aggressively sought to introduce and pass a series of anti-reproductive health bills this year that would not only bar access to abortion, but also allow private citizens to sue anyone who “assists and Aiding in providing” an illegal abortion offers up to $10,000 in damages. The State House also passed a resolution to recognize the lives lost through abortion and to urge citizens to fly flags at half-staff on the anniversary of the year of abortion Deer vs Wade Decision.
Tamya Cox-Touré, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said the bills passed in Oklahoma “are an alarming reminder that the days of access to safe and legal abortion may be numbered.”
This year alone, nearly 40 states have introduced more than 200 bills to restrict access to abortion. People in certain parts of the country, including the Great Plains and the South, face the possibility of being stranded in regions where very few if any states allow abortion if Roe v. Wade is lifted.
But despite the bleak landscape, reproductive rights advocates – including the more than 100 who demonstrated Tuesday in the state capital in Oklahoma City – vow to keep fighting.
“We have difficult times ahead and we’ve been through so much,” said Rebecca Tong, Co-Executive Director of Trust Women. “No Oklahoma deserves the kind of incoherent and gruesome representation that takes place behind the closed doors of the state capital. But we believe in the power of the people, and we believe in the ability of Oklahomans to contain this disastrous legislation.”