Oklahoma Makes Abortion a Felony, Punishable By Prison

The law goes into effect in August, if courts don't intervene, effectively removing a critical abortion sanctuary for Texans and worsening the access crisis.

AbortionPolitics
Oklahoma Makes Abortion a Felony, Punishable By Prison
Photo:Sue Ogrocki (AP)

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed a bill on Tuesday banning abortion in the state starting in August. S.B. 612 will make the act of providing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or $100,000 fine, if the bill goes unchallenged in the courts. The three-page piece of legislation provides one narrow exception to “save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency”—no exceptions for rape or incest survivors.

The bill is expected to be challenged by the typical reproductive legal coalition, including the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The law signed today is not yet in effect, and abortion remains legal in Oklahoma. We will fight back against these cruel bans in court because people shouldn’t have to cross state lines in secret to access care that should be available in their communities,” Emily Wales, interim president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said in a statement to Jezebel. “Planned Parenthood has served Oklahomans for decades and will continue to do just that.”

Accessing abortion in Oklahoma is not just about the Sooner State. Because of S.B. 8, the six-week abortion ban in place in Texas, the surrounding states have become become sanctuaries for abortion provision for Texans. In the months after the Texas law went into effect, Oklahoma began taking a large portion of Texas patients, thereby pushing Oklahomans who still needed access to abortion out of state or further into their pregnancies.

In September 2021, Planned Parenthood centers in Oklahoma served more than 250 pregnant people with Texas zip codes, compared to 30 patients in September in 2020 and 2019. “For seven months our clinics have seen first-hand the impact of the health care crisis created by Texas’s S.B. 8 — the legislation that has emboldened anti-abortion legislators across the country. It is simply unconscionable that in the face of the incredible efforts we see Texans making to access essential health care, the governor’s best response is to double down on the cruelty of S.B. 8,” Myfy Jensen-Fellows, advocacy director, Trust Women, said in a statement to Jezebel.

While the Oklahoma bill itself doesn’t authorize criminal charges for the patient—only the provider—pregnancy loss is already being criminalized in this country. Last week in Texas, a woman was arrested on suspicion of murder after allegedly self-administering her own abortion and eventually going to a hospital. The district attorney dismissed the charge after public outrage.

Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled state legislature won’t be stopping at this abortion ban. Two other abortion bans—six-week ban S.B. 1503 and total ban H.B. 4327—are up for final votes soon. Unlike Tuesday’s bill, these two laws would go into effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.

This bill is a part of the larger effort by state lawmakers preparing for Roe v. Wade to be (at the very least) severely curtailed by the Supreme Court in June, if not fully returning rules of abortion law to the states. Currently, 21 states have laws on the books that could outlaw abortion as soon as that happens. Twelve states have “trigger-bans” on the books designed specifically to ban abortion abortion in the case that Roe was ever overturned.

Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress have been unable get their shit together to protect abortion on a federal level. Senate Democrats couldn’t get the Women’s Health Protection Act to President Biden because of party in-fighting and not wanting to touch filibuster reform. The state of abortion rights in this country is in full crisis, with apparently no help on the way.

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