While the fate of Roe v. Wade hangs in the balance, Oklahoma has passed a bill to make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The bill is now headed to the desk of Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has promised to sign any and all anti-abortion measures.
The bill’s passage came as a shock. The Oklahoma state House recently passed a bill modeled on the controversial Texas abortion ban, which lets individuals sue anyone over illegal abortions, and abortion rights supporters and opponents were expected to battle it out over that legislation. But instead of advancing that bill Tuesday, the House instead passed a more straightforward abortion ban, which would be enforced by the government, in a 70-14 vote. The state Senate originally passed the bill last year.
If the courts don’t block the bill from taking effect, abortions would be acceptable in Oklahoma only if they’re performed to save the lives of the mothers.
“Anti-abortion lawmakers have outdone themselves this session, proposing nearly 20 abortion restrictions,” Emily Wales, interim president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said in a statement. “They are more focused on governing our bodies than addressing real crises, like the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic and rising maternal mortality rates.”
Since September, when Texas enacted its six-week abortion ban, Oklahoma’s clinics have fielded an onslaught of abortion patients. Almost half of the abortion patients now seen in Oklahoma are “medical refugees” from Texas, according to a Tuesday press release from local abortion rights supporters, including Planned Parenthood.
Rebecca Tong, the co-executive director of the organization Trust Women, said in a statement that her organization’s Oklahoma City abortion clinic will remain open as long as possible. In August, the month before the ban went into effect, that clinic saw 11 Texan patients. In September, the number of Texan patients surged to 127.
Under the new Oklahoma ban, patients from both Oklahoma and Texas would have to travel even farther for abortions.
But even if Stitt does sign this ban into law, it may not ever impact patients. Because the bill relies on government enforcement, it is easier for abortion rights supporters to challenge in court. Lawsuits in other states, like Alabama, have halted attempts to enact similar laws that ban abortion early in pregnancy.
The Supreme Court is now weighing a case that may topple Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. If Roe falls, leaving states free to regulate abortion, Oklahoma is one of 12 states that have “trigger laws” that would immediately prohibit all or most abortions.
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.