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Oklahoma Passes 'Blatantly Unconstitutional' Bill to Jail Abortion Providers

The extreme attack on women's reproductive health just needs the governor's signature to become law. We asked a legal expert if it could actually be enforced.
May 19, 2016, 7:00pm
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin. Photo via Wikipedia

The war on women's reproductive rights is thriving in conservative states. While Indiana's Republican governor Mike Pence signed a nonsensical bill severely limiting abortions late last month, Oklahoma—the same state where a court recently ruled that forced oral sex while drunk does not constitute rape—just one-upped him.

According to the Associated Press, this morning the Oklahoma state legislature passed a bill that would make performing an abortion a felony. As in: Doctors who are just doing their jobs by performing the safe, legal procedure could face up to three years in prison. The AP reports that "the bill also would restrict any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine in Oklahoma." The only exception to the legislation is if the mother's life is at risk.

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Voted through by a 33-12 vote and "no discussion or debate," it's now up to Governor Mary Fallin to decide the bill's ultimate fate—and the fate of women in Oklahoma. Fallin has historically voted in favor of anti-abortion legislation. According to the AP, Fallin will withhold comment until her staff has time to review the bill.

But according to a lawyer from the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), even if Governor Fallin approves the draconian legislation, it's unlikely that it could be enforced. "This bill, which would criminalize abortion and send doctors to jail, is blatantly unconstitutional," Gretchen Borchelt, the vice president for reproductive rights and health at the NWLC, told Broadly over email. "It's just another example of how some Oklahoma politicians will stop at nothing to take away a woman's right to abortion."

"For more than four decades, the US Supreme Court has recognized that the Constitution prohibits a state from passing a law that bans abortion prior to viability. The Oklahoma bill would effectively do just that by criminalizing anyone who performs abortions," she explained. "If the Governor signs this cruel and unconstitutional bill into law, I would expect it to be challenged immediately in court. The state would lose the case, wasting significant state resources in the process."