The Oklahoma legislature on Thursday passed a bill banning abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, a ban that could greatly reduce access to abortion not only for women in the state, but also those who have crossed its borders to reach the limit. circumvent increasingly strict anti-abortion laws across the South.
The bill is modeled on a bill that went into effect in Texas in September. It prohibits abortion after cardiac fetal activity, usually around six weeks of pregnancy, and requires civilian enforcement, allowing them to sue any doctor who performs or induces the abortion, or anyone who “aids or instigates” an abortion. The bill encourages lawsuits by offering rewards of at least $10,000 for those who are successful.
Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, had signed a bill this month banning abortion entirely except to save a pregnant woman’s life “in a medical emergency,” making the procedure a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. and a $100,000 fine.
But while that law won’t take effect until the end of August, the bill sent by the legislature to Mr Stitt’s desk on Thursday would take effect immediately if signed.
Planned Parenthood said its Oklahoma clinic had seen the number of patients from Texas increase by 2,500 percent in the months after that state’s law went into effect. While waiting for the governor to sign the six-week bill, some clinics say they have stopped scheduling patients because they expect to be overwhelmed by women facing the new deadlines.
“It will be chaos for many of our patients,” said Emily Wales, the interim president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “We already have too few appointments. Every time we get a new schedule, it’s a matter of hours.”
The clinic had referred patients to clinics in Colorado and Illinois, she said. But with wait times and other restrictions already in place, “there are definitely people who can’t figure out the logistics of getting ahead.”
Mr. Stitt had laughed at the influx of new patients from Texas when he signed the criminal injunction this month, suggesting the state highway patrol could “arrest the Texans crossing our border.”
“This bill will take care of that,” he said.
Mr Stitt has said, “We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country.”
Despite the previous criminal law ban signed by the governor, the Republican-controlled legislature has considered several other anti-abortion measures, including the one passed Thursday. The strategy is an attempt to pile up bans and close any loopholes.
Oklahoma is also considering a bill banning abortion 30 days after the start of a woman’s last monthly menstrual period before many women realize they are pregnant. Because the state has a 72-hour waiting period, that law would also effectively ban abortion.
The bill passed Thursday would allow exceptions to save a mother’s life in a medical emergency and also provide an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, as long as these crimes are reported to police.
State Senator Julie Daniels, a Republican and a sponsor of the bill, said it would “save many innocent lives by acting as a deterrent to those who perform abortions.”
The state of abortion in the US
Who gets an abortion in America? The typical patient is most likely already a mother, poor, single, late 20s, college educated, and very early in pregnancy. Teenagers today have far fewer abortions. Nearly half of abortions take place in the first six weeks of pregnancy and almost all of them in the first trimester.
The new laws run counter to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion. But they are consistent with a trend in other states of expectations that a conservative majority in court will reverse or significantly scale back the Roe decision by the summer.
Roe forbids states to ban abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb, which is now about 23 weeks gestation. The court is now considering a law in Mississippi that would prohibit abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and in pleadings in December, a majority of judges said they would uphold it.
States were encouraged by 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 instituted by Roe. In March, the Texas Supreme Court similarly declined to block the law, because its hands were tied by the demand for civil enforcement.
In March, Idaho became the first state to issue a similar ban. But the Idaho Supreme Court stopped the law after Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit to stop it, arguing the law undermined privacy.
On Thursday, a coalition of Oklahoma abortion providers filed lawsuits against the passed Texas-style law, as well as the earlier ban, which is due to take effect in August.
Ms Wales, the chair of Planned Parenthood, said the Idaho Supreme Court decision had given the coalition some hope it could block the law in Oklahoma.
A spokeswoman for Mr Stitt declined to comment on Thursday, writing in an email that his office “will not comment on pending legislation”. But the governor has said before that he will sign any anti-abortion legislation that crosses his desk.