Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass A Near Total Ban On Abortion
Getty Images/ Joshua Roberts

On Tuesday, with virtually no discussion or debate, the Oklahoma House state legislature, which currently has a Republican supermajority, voted 70-14 to pass Senate Bill (SB) 612 “that would make performing an abortion a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.”

The author of the bill, Republican state Rep. Jim Olsen, said, “Obviously, I’m thrilled because we have the potential of seeing many lives of babies saved.” The bill now is headed up to GOP Governor Kevin Stitt and is expected to become law, as Stitt has previously said on the record that “he’d sign any anti-abortion bill that comes to his desk.” Should the bill be signed into law, it would become effective this year on August 26.

Pundits have concluded that a major impetus for the passage of this bill was because “Oklahoma became a major destination for women from Texas who were seeking abortions after that state enacted a law banning the procedure after about six weeks, a very early stage of pregnancy.” It is significant to note that there are only four abortion provider facilities in the state of Oklahoma. Thus this bill is expected to have an impact that will extend beyond the state and on the entirety of the region.

An abortion-rights group coalition, which includes the Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma, released a statement that said in part, “If allowed to take effect, SB 612 would be devastating for both Oklahomans and Texans who continue to seek care in Oklahoma.”

Nearly half of the patients Oklahoma providers are currently seeing are medical refugees from Texas…Now, Oklahomans could face a future where they would have no place left in their state to go to seek this basic health care.”

ACLU of Oklahoma director Tamya Cox-Touré said the bill is an “alarming reminder that the days of access to safe and legal abortion may be numbered, and we must continue to fight to guarantee all people have access to the essential health care they need, including abortion.”

Cox-Touré added, “This bill kind of came out of nowhere…This was a direct reflection of the fact that 350 people gathered to demand that abortion access is protected. And this was their retaliation.”

Center for Reproductive Rights senior staff attorney Rabia Muqaddam said, “With barely any notice, the Oklahoma Legislature resurrected a bill that is patently unconstitutional and flies in the face of the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s clear precedent…The Oklahoma Supreme Court has found time and time again that the state’s attempts to restrict abortion are unconstitutional, as this total abortion ban clearly is.”

This near-total abortion ban occurs as the Supreme Court is set to weigh in on Mississippi’s 15-week ban on abortion that has the potential to “overturn or significantly roll back Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that guaranteed the right to abortion nationwide.”

This is not the last anti-abortion measure the Oklahoma state legislature is considering. As Vox reports, “[t]he state senate has already passed the so-called Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, which is a copycat of a Texas ban allowing any private individual to sue doctors who perform abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected (typically about six weeks into term) except in the case of a medical emergency.” That bill will be debated in a House committee this week.