Oklahoma passes toughest abortion ban; services to stop

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill banning all abortions with few exceptions, and providers said they would stop performing the procedure as soon as the governor signs it into law. latest example of the GOP’s national push to restrict access to what’s been a constitutional right for nearly half a century.

Oklahoma lawmakers have already passed half a dozen anti-abortion measures this year, and while abortion providers across the country are bracing for the possibility that the new conservative majority on the US Supreme Court- United further restricts the practicethis was particularly the case in Oklahoma and Texas.

Two of Oklahoma’s four abortion clinics have already stopped offering abortions after the governor signed a six-week ban earlier this month, and an attorney for the other two independent clinics said Thursday they would no longer offer services once the bill is signed into law. The bill is likely to reach Governor Kevin Stitt’s desk early next week, and the first-term Republican re-election contender has already said he will sign any anti-abortion bill the legislature gives him. would send. It would take effect immediately upon signing.

“This bill could take effect at any time, and once it does, anyone can sue the clinic, the doctors, anyone else involved in providing an abortion in Oklahoma,” a said Rabia Muqaddam, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive. Rights, which represents Oklahoma clinics in legal challenges against several proposed new anti-abortion laws.

The bills are part of an aggressive push in Republican-led states across the country to reduce the right to abortion. It follows a leaked draft notice from the country’s High Court that suggests judges are considering watering down or overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade who legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago.

The law project by Collinsville Rep. Wendi Stearman would ban all abortions except to save the life of a pregnant woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.

“Is our goal to defend the right to life or not? Stearman asked his colleagues before the bill passed by a vote of 73 to 16, mostly along party lines.

The bill specifically allows doctors to remove an ‘unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion’ or miscarriage, or to remove an ectopic pregnancy, a life-threatening emergency that occurs when a fertilized egg implants. outside the uterus, often in a fallopian tube. and early in pregnancy.

Since all abortion clinics in the state would have to stop offering services, it’s unclear where a woman qualifying under one of these exemptions would go to get an abortion, as providers say that many doctors would be afraid to break the law.

The bill also does not apply to the use of Plan B, other morning-after pills, or any type of birth control.

Since the bill defines an “unborn child” as a human fetus or embryo at any stage of gestation, from fertilization to birth, it should not apply to in vitro fertilization , which is when eggs are fertilized in the lab before being transferred to a woman’s uterus, said Oklahoma City fertility specialist Dr. Eli Reshef.

“(The bill) doesn’t criminalize what we’re doing,” Reshef said. “Regardless of our position on abortion, we are not concerned that the bill will harm our particular profession.”

The bill is one of at least three anti-abortion bills sent to Stitt this year. Another abortion bill similar to a Texas bill passed last year that bans the procedure after heart activity is detected in the embryo, which experts say is about six weeks, has already gone into effect and has already significantly curtailed the practice in Oklahoma. Another bill due to come into force this summer would make it a crime to perform an abortion, punishable by 10 years in prison. This bill contains no exception for rape or incest.

“At this point, we are preparing for the most restrictive environment politicians can create: a complete abortion ban with probably no exceptions,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood. Great Plains, which stopped offering abortions at two of its Oklahoma clinics after the six-week ban went into effect earlier this month. “This is the worst-case scenario for abortion care in the state of Oklahoma.”

Like the Texas law, the Oklahoma bill would allow private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion. After the United States Supreme Court authorized this mechanism to stay in place, other Republican-led states sought to copy Texas’ ban. Governor of Idaho signed the first imitation measure in March, although it was temporarily blocked by the state Supreme Court.

After Texas passed its bill last year, there was a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions performed in that state, with many women traveling to Oklahoma. and other surrounding states for the procedure.

There are ongoing legal challenges in Oklahoma to both the bill to criminalize abortion and the six-week ban in Texas, which could yet be halted, but the courts have not yet now failed to do so.

The number of abortions performed each year in Oklahoma has declined steadily over the past two decades, from more than 6,200 in 2002 to 3,737 in 2020, the fewest in more than 20 years, according to data from the Department of Oklahoma State Health. In 2020, before the Texas law was passed, approximately 9% of abortions performed in Oklahoma were to Texas women.

In the first four months after the Texas law took effect last September, abortions at clinics in the state fell an average of 46% from the same period a year earlier. But studies have also found a surge in the number of Texas women ordering abortion pills by mail and traveling out of state to have abortions.

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