Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signs law criminalizing abortion

Oklahoma’s Republican governor has signed a bill to make abortion illegal in the state, with providers facing felony charges of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to to $100,000, marking the toughest restrictions on abortion care in the United States.

Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law Senate Bill 612 in a ceremony surrounded by abortion advocates and religious leaders in the state capitol on April 12.

“We want to ban abortion in the state of Oklahoma,” he said, denouncing “liberal activists on the coast who always seem to want to come in and dictate a mandate and change our way of life” before mount legal challenges to the measure. .

The law makes an exception for abortions performed to save the mother’s life but does not make exceptions for rape or incest.

If the measure survives anticipated legal challenges, it is expected to go into effect this summer after the state legislative session adjourns.

Unlike several other anti-abortion measures that have advanced in the state, it does not include an emergency clause triggering an immediate effective date. The governor is expected to sign another bill that would – this measure would effectively ban all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and prevent doctors from performing or inducing an abortion at any time unless it is “to save life” of the pregnant person.

The measures add to a flurry of anti-abortion bills from Republican U.S. state lawmakers, emboldened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s early ruling in a case that could determine the fate of health care protections for women if the decades-old precedent of the ruling in Roe vs. Wade is overturned.

The country’s high court also declined to intervene in a Texas case seeking to block that state’s ban on abortion care at six weeks gestation.

Last month, Planned Parenthood reported that abortion providers in Oklahoma saw a 2,500% increase in the number of abortion patients with addresses in Texas over the previous year. Further erosion of access to abortion in Oklahoma could have dangerous health consequences for people seeking abortions throughout the region, advocates have warned.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s failure to prevent Texas from overriding the constitutional right to abortion has encouraged other states to do the same,” said Nancy Northrup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, representing claimants in the Supreme Court case.

“Oklahoma’s outright abortion ban is blatantly unconstitutional and will wreak havoc on the lives of people seeking abortion care in and out of state,” she said. . “We sued the State of Oklahoma [10] times over the past decade to protect access to abortion and we will also challenge this law to prevent this travesty from taking effect.

If the Supreme Court were to reject the precedent of historic deer decision, more than two dozen states have already put in place so-called “trigger bans” and other abortion restrictions that would immediately ban abortion care.

Governor Stitt said Tuesday “we definitely don’t want Texans” traveling to Oklahoma for abortion care.

“I hope this bill will limit that,” he said.

In the wake of the Texas law, the Trust Women’s clinic in Oklahoma City “was inundated” with patients from Texas seeking access to abortion care, according to the group’s advocacy director Myfy Jensen-Fellows.

“The volume of patients has not decreased, and the impact on Oklahomans’ access to abortion care in their own communities has been significant,” she said in a statement. “Oklahoma patients now regularly travel out of state to access timely abortion care, including many who visit our clinic in Wichita, Kansas.”

In Idaho, the first state to approve an abortion ban mirroring Texas law, the state Supreme Court temporarily blocked the law following a legal challenge from Planned Parenthood.

The Idaho governor and state attorney general have suggested the ban is unconstitutional.

“It’s a very dark day in Oklahoma,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes.

“We’ve been in the midst of a crisis for seven months — as Texans were forced to leave their home state for care — and now Oklahomans may have to do the same,” she said. . ” It is unacceptable. But know this: the law signed today is not yet in effect, and abortion remains legal in Oklahoma. We will fight these cruel bans in court because people shouldn’t have to cross state lines in secret to access the care that should be available in their communities.

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