Oklahoma Legislature passes 6-week abortion ban modeled on Texas law

The Oklahoma Legislature on Thursday approved a bill banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, a ban that could dramatically...


The Oklahoma Legislature on Thursday approved a bill banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, a ban that could dramatically reduce access to abortion not just for women in the state, but for those who have been crossing its borders circumvent increasingly strict anti-abortion laws in the South.

The bill is modeled on one that took effect in Texas in September. It prohibits abortion after fetal heart activity, usually around six weeks gestation, and requires enforcement by civilians, allowing them to sue any physician who performs or induces abortion, or anyone who “aids or abets ” a. The bill encourages lawsuits by offering rewards of at least $10,000 to those who succeed.

Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, signed legislation earlier this month that completely prohibits abortion except to save the life of a pregnant woman “in a medical emergency,” and makes the procedure a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

But while that law won’t come into force until late August, the bill the Legislative Assembly sent to Mr Stitt’s office on Thursday would go into effect immediately if signed into law.

Planned Parenthood said its clinic in Oklahoma saw a 2,500% increase in patients from Texas in the months after that state’s law took effect. Anticipating that the governor will sign the six-week bill, some clinics say they have stopped scheduling patients because they expect to be overwhelmed with women in the face of the new delays.

“It will be chaos for many of our patients,” said Emily Wales, acting president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “We already have too few appointments. Each time we receive a new schedule, it will fill up within hours.

The clinic had referred patients to clinics in Colorado and Illinois, she said. But with waiting periods and other restrictions already in place, “there are absolutely people who can’t figure out the logistics of going any further.”

Mr Stitt had laughed at the influx of new patients from Texas when he signed the criminal ban this month, suggesting the state Highway Patrol could “stop Texans crossing our border”.

“This bill will take care of that,” he said.

Mr Stitt said ‘we want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country’.

Despite the earlier criminal ban signed by the governor, the Republican-controlled legislature considered several other anti-abortion measures, including the one passed Thursday. The strategy is an attempt to layer bans on top of each other and close any loopholes.

Oklahoma is also considering a bill that would ban abortions 30 days after a woman’s last period begins, before many women realize they are pregnant. Because the state has a 72-hour waiting period, this law would also ban abortion.

The bill passed Thursday would allow exceptions to save a mother’s life in the event of a medical emergency and also provides an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, as long as these crimes are reported to the law enforcement.

State Senator Julie Daniels, a Republican and sponsor of the bill, said it would “save many innocent lives by acting as a deterrent to those who perform abortions.”

The new laws run counter to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion. But they are in line with a trend in other states due to the expectation that a conservative majority on the court will reverse or significantly reduce the Roe ruling by summer.

Roe prohibits states from banning abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb, which is now about 23 weeks pregnant. The court is currently considering a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and during oral arguments in December, a majority of justices indicated they would uphold it.

The states have been encouraged by the Texas law, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to block. The court said that because state officials were not responsible for enforcing the law, it could not be challenged in federal court based on the constitutional protections established by Roe. In March, the Texas Supreme Court also declined to block the law, saying it had its hands tied by the requirement for civil enforcement.

In March, Idaho became the first state to enact a similar ban. But the Idaho Supreme Court suspended the law after Planned Parenthood sued to stop it, arguing that the law violated privacy.

On Thursday, a coalition of abortion providers in Oklahoma filed lawsuits against the Texas-style bill that passed, as well as the earlier ban that was supposed to go into effect in August.

Ms Wales, president of Planned Parenthood, said the Idaho Supreme Court ruling had given the coalition hope of blocking Oklahoma’s bill.

A spokeswoman for Mr Stitt declined to comment on Thursday, writing in an email that his office “does not comment on pending legislation”. But the governor has already said he will sign any anti-abortion legislation that crosses his desk.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Oklahoma Legislature passes 6-week abortion ban modeled on Texas law
Oklahoma Legislature passes 6-week abortion ban modeled on Texas law
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