Oklahoma will be the first state to totally lose abortion access. On Thursday, the legislature advanced a total abortion ban from “fertilization,” enforced by legal action from private citizens. It will go into effect as soon as Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signs it, which the father of six has signaled he would do.
The bill allows for abortions if you’ve been raped or a victim of incest if you report the incident to police, and if the “pregnant woman [is] in a medical emergency,” but doesn’t expand on what that means.
The legal enforcement mechanism is similar to Texas Senate Bill 8, which encourages people to bring lawsuits against people they suspect provided or aided an abortion that violates the ban for a minimum five-figure reward.
Trust Women, the independent clinic started by former employees of murdered abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, operates in Oklahoma and Kansas. Rebecca Tong, co-executive director told Jezebel that the clinic will remain open. “We do hope that we can see [patients] tomorrow. And we are paying very close attention to when it goes to the governor’s desk,” she said.
The clinic plans to remain open to help pregnant people find care where it’s legal. “I can’t get into too many specifics because these laws are bounty, civilian enforcement. We have no idea how far the reach of these will be,” Tong told Jezebel. “And even if we get slapped with just one for providing illegal abortions or something, even though we’re not, we still have to defend ourselves in those things.”
The bill is not in step with Oklahomans. Polling found 49 percent of adults in Oklahoma support legal abortion while 45 percent do not.
Trust Women also vowed to start the work of bringing legal abortion to the state. “Together we will begin the necessary work to relegalize abortions in Oklahoma,” the statement read.
This bill’s passage is an even more aggressive move by the Oklahoma legislature since last month, when the legislature outlawed abortion after six weeks. Stitt signed that law in mid April, and it went into effect in May after state courts declined to block the legislation from going into effect.
The new ban will not only decimate Oklahomans’ access to abortion, but will help thwart patients from surrounding states as well. After Texas S.B. 8 went into effect, Lone Star residents who could travel flocked to clinics in Oklahoma. This spillover effect had already stretched Oklahoma abortion providers to their limits as they try to provide care for people in the state and those fleeing restrictions.
The legislative victory for anti-abortion politicians and zealots comes less than a month after a Supreme Court opinion draft was leaked to the public. It showed that there were enough votes on the court to overturn Roe v. Wade (the decision that legalized abortion nationwide) and return abortion policy to the states. Just this morning, state-level activists called for court expansion to attempt to right the judicial slant.
Bills like the one-two punch in Oklahoma will continue coming out of state legislatures if abortion policy is returned to the states. Earlier this month, the state of Louisiana almost advanced a bill to imprison abortion patients. Democrats are in control of the Senate, but have failed to codify abortion provision and access twice in the last six months.