Vote to Ban Abortion in Oklahoma Comes at Key Time for Reproductive Rights: NPR

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Vote to Ban Abortion in Oklahoma Comes at Key Time for Reproductive Rights: NPR ap22095604714575 custom 27010102b58b8e185d4311e2d4a01ec29fdc4735 s1100 c50

Emily Wales, interim executive director of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, speaks to a group of abortion rights advocates outside the state capitol in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The Oklahoma House of Representatives has given final legislative approval to a bill that would make the practice of an abortion a felony.

Sean Murphy/AP


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Sean Murphy/AP

Vote to Ban Abortion in Oklahoma Comes at Key Time for Reproductive Rights: NPR ap22095604714575 custom 27010102b58b8e185d4311e2d4a01ec29fdc4735 s1200

Emily Wales, interim executive director of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, speaks to a group of abortion rights advocates outside the state capitol in Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The Oklahoma House of Representatives has given final legislative approval to a bill that would make the practice of an abortion a felony.

Sean Murphy/AP

Lawmakers in Oklahoma have passed a bill that would make performing an abortion a felony, except in the case of a medical emergency.

It is the latest conservative legislature to pass a new restriction on abortion, as Republican-led states across the country push to limit reproductive rights.

The recent wave of bills restricting abortion comes as the country awaits the decision of the US Supreme Court in a landmark reproductive rights case. Some legal experts predict that the conservative court could weaken or even nullify the constitutional right to abortion in the first two trimesters of pregnancy guaranteed in Roe vs. Wade.

“The only person who should have the power to decide if you need an abortion is you, no matter where you live or how much money you make,” Tamya Cox-Touré, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said in a statement after the bill was passed. “But Oklahoma is facing an abortion access crisis that poses an immediate threat to the reproductive health and freedom of our community.”

What the Oklahoma bill would do

the legislation, SB-612prohibits people in Oklahoma from performing abortions unless doing so to “save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency.”

A person convicted under the bill would be guilty of a felony and could face a fine of up to $100,000 or a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

A pregnant woman could not be charged with a crime for having an abortion.

the oklahoma house approved the measure by a 70-14 vote on Tuesday. It had been approved by the Senate in March of last year.

“Senate Bill 612 is the strongest pro-life legislation in the country right now, effectively eliminating abortion in Oklahoma,” said Republican state Sen. Nathan Dahm, one of the bill’s authors. said in a statement.

The bill now goes to Governor Kevin Stitt for his signature. The Republican has previously said he would sign any anti-abortion bills the legislature sends him, according to NPR member station KOSU.

Stitt’s office did not respond to an NPR request for comment.

In March, the Oklahoma House passed a bill that would ban many abortions and allow citizens to file civil lawsuits against anyone who performs an abortion, a legal framework similar to a Texas law.

After the law went into effect in Texas in September, Oklahoma reportedly saw an increase in Texas women looking for abortions. Nearly half of the patients seen by Oklahoma providers are from Texas, the ACLU said.

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Republican lawmakers have Roe be dumped

Although the Oklahoma bill will certainly invite a legal challenge if it becomes law, experts say supporters of the measure are unlikely to be moved by the prospect.

“I think this is just a reflection of the fact that lawmakers in Oklahoma, like in much of the country, are pretty sure the Supreme Court will overturn Roe and that it’s only a matter of time until a law like this can take effect,” Mary Ziegler, a visiting professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, told NPR.

Ziegler said it’s possible the law could even be blocked in the short term, but Republican lawmakers in Oklahoma are likely counting on the Supreme Court ruling out Roe in the summer, paving the way for the law to come into effect.

“They may lose the battle, but they will think they are going to win the war,” Ziegler said.

Although the constitutional right to abortion has remained in force, the states have left pre-Roe abortion bans in place or “trigger” laws passed that would ban the procedure if the Supreme Court ever allowed states to make that decision. More recently, lawmakers in conservative states from Alabama to Idaho to Arizona have approved new restrictions on abortion.

Laws criminalizing abortion used to be common

Some states are passing laws that would be enforced by private citizens filing civil lawsuits, while others, like Oklahoma, make it a crime to perform an abortion.

Laws explicitly criminalizing the performance of an abortion were common in the late 19th century, Ziegler said. “At one point, almost every state had a law like that,” she said.

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But that changed in the 1960s and 1970s as advocates pushed to repeal such restrictions in the years before Roe decision that finally guaranteed the constitutional right to abortion throughout the country.