Oklahoma’s Republican governor, Kevin Stitt, is famous for saying he wants his state to be “the most pro-life state in the country.” Indeed, he claims to speak for “all four million Oklahomans who overwhelmingly want to protect the unborn.” I don’t know about Stitt’s math skills. Four million is roughly the total population of Oklahoma, and according to the Pew Research Center’s survey data, 51 percent of adults in the state want abortion to be “legal in all/most cases.”
Whoever the man thinks he is representing, he and his legislative allies definitely mean business when it comes to stamping out any vestige of abortion rights. The legislature keeps churning out ever-more-extreme abortion laws before the ink is even dry on the last one, as the New York Times observes.
Oklahoma already has a trigger ban that would immediately ban abortion if the court overturns Roe, as well as a ban on abortion that has remained on the books since before the Roe decision in 1973. Two weeks ago, just after the leak of the memo, Mr. Stitt signed a six-week ban closely modeled on the Texas legislation. The previous month, he had signed a law that will take effect in late August, outlawing abortion entirely except to save the life of the mother.
The drive for new abortion restrictions has become a veritable frenzy since the leak of a probable majority Supreme Court opinion reversing Roe v. Wade appeared earlier this month. As the Times explains, Oklahoma may have now sent Stitt the bill that heads off any competition for the most draconian anti-abortion measure.
The Oklahoma Legislature gave final approval on Thursday to a bill that prohibits nearly all abortions starting at fertilization, which would make it the nation’s strictest abortion law.
The bill subjects abortion providers and anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion to civil suits from private individuals. It would take effect immediately if signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican who has pledged to make his state the most anti-abortion in the nation.
The measure is modeled on a law that took effect in Texas in September, which has relied on civilian instead of criminal enforcement to work around court challenges.
The Oklahoma ban goes further than the Texas law, which bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.
This means it takes the most extreme position possible on when the state will invade its citizens’ bodies to “protect the unborn” while embracing the devious Texas vigilante justice-enforcement mechanism aimed at intimidating providers. Assuming the Supreme Court does indeed defer entirely to the states on this subject, it’s what the people of Oklahoma will be living with in the immediate future — unless someone comes up with an even more restrictive law.
That’s possible, I suppose. As the Washington Post reports, the new law explicitly excludes abortions performed as the result of rape or incest (when such crimes have been reported to law enforcement) and excludes Plan B contraception. But at least one Democratic legislator doesn’t think in-vitro fertilization is safe from the law. “Looking at the language, it’s hard to see how it wouldn’t affect in-vitro fertilization, because it talks about as soon as the ovum and the sperm meet and the egg is fertilized that that means that’s a person,” Oklahoma state representative Emily Virgin said. “That’s what happens with in-vitro fertilization — you create embryos.”
Any way you interpret this particular statute, the anti-abortion activity in Oklahoma should give pause to those who believe that if Roe is reversed, there will be some measured debate in the states leading to reasonable laws and everyone can return to their previously programmed activities and political concerns. Until abortions and anything that resembles an abortion are proscribed and prosecuted, the movement that regards legal abortion as an “American Holocaust” will not rest. It will be 24/7 warfare in state legislatures — not just in Oklahoma but wherever Republicans can stand up and offer a bill or amendment.
More on Life After Roe
- Republicans Race to Block Access to Ballots for Abortion-Rights Initiatives
- Walgreens Won’t Sell Abortion Pills in Red States Even Where It’s Legal
- What It Takes to Give Abortion Seekers (Actually Good) Advice Online