OKLAHOMA CITY— Oklahoma will outlaw most abortions come August after Gov. Kevin Stitt signed on Tuesday a bill to classify performing the procedure as a felony.
In a signing ceremony, Stitt approved Senate Bill 612 that would punish medical providers who perform abortions with up to 10 years in prison or ends of up to $100,000.
A reproductive rights group already plans to sue the state over the new law.
Stitt said he was keeping his pledge to sign all anti-abortion bills that advance to his desk.
“We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country,” he said. “We want to outlaw abortion.”
As he signed the bill, Stitt sat behind a desk with a sign proclaiming “life is a human right.” He was flanked by GOP state lawmakers, Attorney General John O’Connor, faith leaders and representatives from anti-abortion groups such as Oklahomans for Life.
The only exception in SB 612 would be for abortions deemed necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency. There is no exception for women who become pregnant through rape or incest.
The law does not punish women seeking an abortion.
Abortion providers and critics of SB 612 have said the measure is unconstitutional. They say Oklahoma could have the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the nation if the measure takes effect.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the group will file a lawsuit challenging the new law.
“Oklahoma’s total abortion ban is blatantly unconstitutional and will wreak havoc on the lives of people seeking abortion care within and outside the state,” she said in a statement. “With the Texas six-week ban in place, many people are traveling to Oklahoma to get care.
“We’ve sued the state of Oklahoma ten times in the last decade to protect abortion access and we will challenge this law as well to stop this travesty from ever taking effect.”
Stitt said he expected a legal challenge from “liberal activists from the coasts who always seem to want to come in and… challenge our way of life.”
O’Connor said he looks forward to defending SB 612 in court.
At least seven other anti-abortion bills are advancing this year through the GOP-dominated Oklahoma Legislature.
Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, the author of SB 612, called it the “most pro-life measure in the country right now.” He stressed that Republican lawmakers will take additional steps to prevent abortion in Oklahoma.
“We should be about protecting life,” Dahm said. “What we are saying here today is the intentional taking of an innocent life has consequences. It is criminal
Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, last week called the bill “shameful,” and said the measure would prevent women from getting necessary health care.
SB 612 will take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, likely in late August.
Oklahoma state law already says abortion is illegal, and anyone who performs the procedure could face a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
The law has been on the books for decades, but hasn’t been enforced since the US Supreme Court determined women have a constitutional right to seek an abortion.
Oklahoma lawmakers push other near-total abortion bans
Several other GOP-backed bills that would effectively prohibit most abortions have cleared most legislative hurdles and are getting closer to reaching Stitt’s desk.
Two bills closely copy a restrictive anti-abortion law implemented in Texas. One of the measures goes a step further than the six-week abortion ban implemented in Texas by prohibiting most abortions starting at conception.
House Bill 4327 would block nearly all abortions by allowing private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” a woman who pursues the procedure. The legislation allows exceptions only for when an abortion is necessary to save a woman’s life or those who seek the procedure following rape or incest, so long as the incident was reported to law enforcement.
Senate Bill 1503 also is similar to the Texas law because it would eliminate most abortions after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, which typically occurs around six weeks into a pregnancy. This bill would also allow for civil enforcement of the law.
If signed into law, HB 4327 and SB 1503 would take effect immediately. Noting Texas’ Senate Bill 8 has faced legal challenges and is still in effect, proponents say the Oklahoma copycat bills are likely to withstand any court challenges.
Senate Bill 1553 would prohibit most abortions 30 days after the start of a pregnant woman’s last menstrual cycle.
The bill’s author, Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, has introduced several other pieces of anti-abortion legislation.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism