Oklahoma legislature passes bill banning nearly all abortions

The Oklahoma Legislature gave final approval Thursday to a bill that bans nearly all abortions beginning with fertilization, making it the toughest abortion law in the country.

The bill subjects abortion providers and anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion to civil suits from individuals. It would go into effect immediately if signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican who has pledged to make his state the most anti-abortion in the nation.

“There can be nothing higher or more critical than the defense of innocent and unborn life,” State Rep. Jim Olsen, a Republican, said on the Oklahoma House floor Thursday. , where the bill passed by a vote of 73 to 16.

The measure is modeled on a law that took effect in Texas in September, which relied on civil rather than criminal enforcement to circumvent legal challenges. Because of this provision – the law explicitly states that state authorities cannot bring charges – the United States Supreme Court and state courts have said they cannot prevent the ban on take effect, even though it violated the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade.

Oklahoma’s ban goes further than Texas law, which prohibits abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

Abortion rights supporters said Oklahoma’s legislation and the continued rush to enact new restrictions in other Republican-led states showed a new legal reality had set in even before the publication official release of a Supreme Court opinion that many believe will overturn Roe v. Wade.

This is not a fire drill,” said Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates in Oklahoma. “It’s not a rehearsal for what’s to come. We live in this real world right now. The Supreme Court will finalize this this summer.

Thursday’s vote was the final step for the Oklahoma Republican-led Legislature, working alongside Mr Stitt, to pass Ban on Ban in a bid to ban abortion altogether. Together, they put their state ahead of the pack of Republican-led states rushing to pass laws that restrict or ban abortion in anticipation of the Supreme Court likely to overturn Roe. A leaked draft opinion written by Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. — as well as oral arguments in the pending case, regarding a Mississippi law that prohibits the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy — said the court was ready to do it.

In Oklahoma, outnumbered Democrats in the State House pleaded with their colleagues not to pass the bill on Thursday. Many instead urged Oklahoma to focus more on funding family planning services or improving the lives of young Oklahomans living in poverty.

“Legislation like this, on the face of it, says we’re going to end abortion in our state,” said state Rep. Trish Ranson, a Democrat who voted against the bill. “The way he chooses to do this is punitive, speculative and brings together the worst of us.”

The bill provides exceptions for cases of rape and incest, but only if those crimes have been reported to law enforcement.

Oklahoma Democrat Cyndi Munson, in a House exchange with a Republican sponsor of the bill, said many women — especially young girls who may be victims of incest — don’t report rape or incest to law enforcement.

“Can you explain to me why you are ok with someone pursuing a pregnancy after being raped or if there have been instances of incest?” Ms. Munson asked. “You understand what incest is, don’t you? Are you okay with that?”

“I agree to preserve the life of the child,” replied Wendi Stearman, the Republican godmother. “The child was not part of this decision”,

If signed by the governor, Oklahoma’s bill would remove another option for Texas women who crossed the state line to seek legal proceedings, and it seeks to punish even those in the state. out of state who help women in Oklahoma get abortions.

Oklahoma already has a trigger ban that would immediately ban abortion if the court overturns Roe, as well as an abortion ban that has remained on the books since before the Roe ruling in 1973. Two weeks ago, Immediately after the memo leaked, Mr. Stitt signed a six-week ban closely modeled on Texas law. The previous month, he had signed a law which will come into force at the end of August, completely banning abortion except to save the life of the mother. This ban imposes criminal penalties on abortion providers.

The new six-week abortion ban had already sharply reduced the number of procedures Oklahoma abortion providers could perform. Andrea Gallegos, executive administrator of the Tulsa Women’s Clinic, said the governor’s signature on the bill passed Thursday would make abortions impossible in the state.

“These laws don’t stop abortion,” Ms. Gallegos said. “Women will always seek and obtain abortions. We are simply forcing the citizens of this country to flee their own state to access health care. It’s pretty awful.

Oklahoma’s legislation attempts to combine two legal approaches: the outright ban on abortion and the use of civil enforcement.

Oklahoma’s bill would allow civil lawsuits against anyone who helps pay for an abortion, which could involve people across the country who have donated to charities that help women in restrictive states get abort elsewhere.

Those who successfully sued would receive awards of at least $10,000 and compensatory damages, including for “emotional distress.”

The bill exempts women who have abortions from prosecution, which has been a red line that legislatures have been unwilling to cross. It does not apply to abortions necessary to “save the life of the unborn child” or the life of the mother “in the event of a medical emergency”.

The bill defines an unborn child as “a human fetus or embryo at any stage of gestation, from fertilization to birth.” Anti-abortion groups, believing that abortion is murder, have tried unsuccessfully since the Roe decision to pass federal or state legislation defining life as beginning at fertilization. Proponents of abortion rights have argued that it would effectively ban birth control methods that prevent implantation, such as an intrauterine device, but Oklahoma’s bill clarifies that it does not apply to contraception.

Asked on ‘Fox News Sunday’ how he would help women who had successful pregnancies despite financial or other hardships that would make it difficult to raise a child, Mr Stitt blamed the ‘democratic socialist left’ for having attempted to abort children born into poverty.

“We believe that God has a special plan for every life and every child,” he said, “and we want everyone to have the same opportunities in Oklahoma, and aborting a child is not the right answer. .”

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