Oklahoma lawmakers pass near-total abortion ban

May 19 (Reuters) – Oklahoma lawmakers on Thursday gave final approval to a bill that would ban nearly all abortions and allow private citizens to sue anyone who helps women terminate a pregnancy.

The bill would go into effect upon its signature by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, making it the most restrictive abortion ban in the United States.

The Republican-backed legislation bans abortion from the time of “fertilization,” making exceptions only for medical emergencies, rape or incest. The text of the bill says that it does not prohibit the use of contraception or emergency contraception.

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Trust Women, which operates a clinic in Oklahoma City, called the bill’s passage “gratuitous and cruel.”

“Our patients are scared, confused by the new reality they live in,” the clinic said in a statement.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based global advocacy group, said Thursday it would challenge the ban in state court.

Oklahoma is among the nation’s Republican-led states rushing to pass anti-abortion laws this year, predicting the U.S. Supreme Court will soon overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established the constitutional right to abortion.

A draft notice leaked earlier this month showed the court’s conservative majority intended to overhaul federal abortion rights and defer legalization to individual states.

Republican-backed laws remain vulnerable to legal challenges pending that ruling. A federal judge on Thursday extended a block on a law recently enacted in Kentucky that would require clinics to stop offering abortions until they can meet certain requirements. Read more

Oklahoma Governor Stitt has said he will sign any anti-abortion legislation that comes to his office.

The state already this month passed a bill banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, as opposed to fertilization. Like the last measure, it relies on civil lawsuits to be enforced.

The enforcement provision in both bills is modeled after Texas legislation, which took effect in September and barred clinics from performing nearly all abortions in that state.

Oklahoma has quickly become a destination for Texas women seeking six-week abortions.

But the enactment of Oklahoma’s own six-week ban this month has severely limited the abortion services the state’s four clinics can provide.

If signed as expected, the new bill would expand an area of ​​the country where there is little or no legal access to abortion, forcing patients to travel to states such as Kansas, New -Mexico and Colorado to end their pregnancy.

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Reporting by Gabriella Borter; edited by Colleen Jenkins, Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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