The Oklahoma House gave final legislative approval on Tuesday to a bill that would make performing an abortion a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
With little discussion and no debate, the Republican-controlled House voted 70-14 to send the bill to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has previously said he’d sign any anti-abortion bill that comes to his desk.
The bill is one of several anti-abortion measures still alive in Oklahoma’s Legislature this year, part of a trend of GOP-led states passing aggressive anti-abortion legislation as the conservative U.S. Supreme Court is considering ratcheting back abortion rights that have been in place for nearly 50 years.
According to GOP state Rep. Jim Olsen of Roland, who sponsored the bill, the Oklahoma bill, which passed the Senate last year, offers an exception exclusively for abortions performed to save the mother’s life. A anyone convicted of performing an abortion under the measure faces up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
“The penalties are for the doctor, not for the woman,” Olsen said.
Similar anti-abortion bills approved by the Oklahoma Legislature and other conservative states in recent years have been struck down as unconstitutional by the courts, but anti-abortion lawmakers have been encouraged by the United States Supreme Court’s decision to uphold new Texas abortion restrictions. The new Texas law, the most stringent anti-abortion legislation in decades, defers enforcement to private citizens, who are entitled to a $10,000 “bounty” if they bring a successful lawsuit against a provider or anybody who assists a patient in obtaining an abortion. This year, many states, including Oklahoma, are considering similar laws.
The Oklahoma bill’s passing came on the same day that more than 100 individuals rallied outside the Capitol in support of abortion rights during a “Bans Off Oklahoma” demonstration.
“These legislators have continued their relentless attacks on our freedoms,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes. “These restrictions are not about improving the safety of the work that we do. They are about shaming and stigmatizing people who need and deserve abortion access.”
Wales stated that Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic in Oklahoma has experienced an 800% rise in the number of women from Texas since that state’s new anti-abortion law was implemented last year.
Abortion is illegal in Texas after heart activity is identified, which is normally about six weeks of pregnancy, with the exception of situations of rape or incest.
Also on Tuesday, the Oklahoma House passed a resolution to honour the lives lost as a result of abortion and to encourage citizens to fly flags at half-staff on Jan. 22, the day the United States Supreme Court legalised abortion in its historic Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.