Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a new law that makes providing abortion care a felony offense.
With the overwhelmingly conservative Supreme Court taking up abortion soon, Republicans have increased their attacks on abortion rights nationwide. On Tuesday, Oklahoma’s governor basically outlawed all abortions unless it’s done to “save the life of a pregnant woman” (their language, not mine). This makes Oklahoma the latest Republican-led state to push through restrictive abortion legislation.
Known as Senate Bill 612, the legislation makes it a felony to either perform or attempt to perform an abortion. Those charged will face a maximum fine of $100,000 and a maximum of 10 years in state prison or both. There are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
"As governor, I represent all 4 million Oklahomans and they overwhelmingly support protecting life in the state of Oklahoma,” Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said during the bill’s signing. “We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country. We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma.”
Stitt added, “I know this bill will be challenged immediately by liberal activists from the coast, who always seem to want to come in and dictate, and mandate, and challenge our way of life here in the state of Oklahoma. The most important thing is to take a stand and protect the unborn and protect life in the state of Oklahoma.”
The legislation doesn’t affect the use or sale of contraceptives, nor does it allow for a person to be criminally charged or convicted with the death of their “unborn child.” However, that’s not quite a win. Often, the point of uber-restrictive abortion legislation like this is to open the doors for states to begin pursuing charges against (formerly) pregnant people directly. For example, prosecutors in Texas tried pursuing murder charges against a woman for a self-induced abortion. Although the charges were dropped, Vox reported that under Texas’s own law, they should’ve never been pursued from the start.
The Oklahoma bill has been condemned by abortion rights advocates. The Hill reported that Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement, “We’ve sued the state of Oklahoma 10 times in the last decade to protect abortion access and we will challenge this law as well to stop this travesty from ever taking effect.”
In her statement, Northup also specifically pointed to Texas’s restrictive abortion law, stating, “The U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to stop Texas from nullifying the constitutional right to abortion has emboldened other states to do the same.”
Currently, Oklahoma’s is also considering House Bill 4327. Under it, abortions would be banned at any point in pregnancy, and private citizens will be able to sue not only providers, but anyone who “aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion” or even simply “intends to engage in the conduct described by this act.” Just like Texas.