Oklahoma House sends governor Texas-style abortion ban
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House gave final approval Thursday to a Texas-style abortion ban that bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
the invoice approved by the GOP-led House on a 68-12 vote without discussion or debate is now heading to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign it within days. The attack on abortion rights is one of many culture war issues conservatives in GOP-led states have embraced, such as restricting LGBTQ rights, motivating the party’s base in an election year.
Dubbed the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, the bill bans abortions once heart activity can be detected in the fetus, which experts say is about six weeks into a pregnancy. A similar bill approved in Texas last year led to a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions performed in that state, sending many women to seek the procedure in Oklahoma and other surrounding states.
Although Stitt already signed a bill earlier this year to make abortion a criminal offense in Oklahoma, the measure is not expected to take effect until later this summer and may not withstand a legal challenge.
Because the measure approved Thursday has an “emergency” provision, it takes effect immediately after the governor signs it, and abortion providers say they will end most abortions in Oklahoma immediately.
“We are more concerned at this point about these Texas-style bans because they have, at least recently, been able to continue and remain in effect,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates two abortion services. clinics in Oklahoma. “We intend to challenge them if they are passed, but due to the provisions of the emergency clause there would be at least a period of time during which we could not provide care.”
Like in Texas, the bill allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion for up to $10,000, a mechanism the U.S. Supreme Court has authorized to Stay in place. The new Texas law has led to a huge increase in the number of women from Texas seeking abortions in Oklahoma.
“We serve as many Texans as Oklahomans right now, in some cases more Texans than Oklahomans,” Wales said.
Before the Texas ban went into effect last year, about 40 Texas women had abortions each month in Oklahoma, according to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. That number rose to 222 Texas women in September and 243 in October, the agency reported.