In the latest measure cooked up by anti-abortion activists determined to crack down on Texans trying to exercise their reproductive rights, Oklahoma’s Republican legislature has enacted a bill making the performance of an abortion at any stage of pregnancy (other than to save the life of the mother) a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison along with a $100,000 fine. The proposed law is on its way to Republican governor Kevin Stitt, who has vowed to approve any and all abortion restrictions (“I am proud to be called the most pro-life governor,” he said).
As the Washington Post explains, “The vote was 70 to 14 after lawmakers added it to the agenda Monday night, catching some by surprise. There was little discussion or debate.”
Oklahoma Republicans have been in a state of high anxiety over the news that the state’s clinics have been flooded with people from Texas who are unable to get abortions in their home state because of its devious new law empowering citizens to harass providers with lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the Texas law to stay in place pending its ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which is widely expected to reverse or significantly erode the constitutional right to abortion created 49 years ago in Roe v. Wade.
But even in Texas, the new ban kicks in only after six weeks of pregnancy. The Mississippi ban being tested in Dobbs takes effect after 15 weeks. Oklahoma is attempting to have the harshest law of them all, though its implementation will likely be blocked until the Supreme Court acts.
An earlier version of the Oklahoma bill emulated Texas’s vigilante enforcement mechanism, but the final version sent to Stitt is a straightforward criminal statute (meaning it would be enforced by the state, not lawsuits from private citizens). What it really represents is the logical result of many years of Republican efforts at the state level to harass abortion providers with burdensome and sometimes impossible regulations so as to cut off access to their services, particularly for low-income people without clinics nearby. Simply labeling providers as felons brings the supply-side strategy for ending legalized abortion to its omega point.
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