Oklahoma Just Passed the Strictest Abortion Ban in the Country

If enacted, it would be even stricter than the Texas six-week ban.
Abortion-rights protesters hold placards during a rally at the Columbia County courthouse in Pennsylvania.
Abortion-rights protesters hold placards during a rally at the Columbia County courthouse in Pennsylvania. (Photo by Paul Weaver / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Oklahoma state Legislature on Thursday passed a bill that would ban almost all abortions, starting at fertilization, and let individuals sue people over illegal abortions.

If signed by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has pledged to back abortion restrictions, it will take effect immediately. The law would be the strictest anti-abortion law in the country. 

This new Oklahoma ban, which had already passed the state Senate, passed the state House 73-16 on Thursday. Under the bill, abortions would be permissible only to “save the life of the unborn child” or the life of the pregnant woman “in a medical emergency,” or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.

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People who undergo abortions cannot be sued under this bill. But abortion providers and people who help an individual obtain an illegal abortion may be liable to pay at least $10,000. 

The bill is based off of the Texas abortion ban, which lets individuals sue anyone who “aids or abets” an illegal abortion. However, that Texas ban, passed last September, blocks abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy rather than at fertilization.

The impact of the Texas abortion ban has been devastating for both patients and providers. The month after the ban took effect last fall, in-clinic abortions in Texas fell by almost 60 percent. Many of the patients turned away from Texas clinics fled to Oklahoma—which, just weeks ago, enacted its own version of a Texas-style, six-week abortion ban, in a move that effectively vaporized abortion access for both Texans and Oklahomans.

“The effect even in that short period of time has been dramatic,” Trust Women, an abortion clinic network with a location in Oklahoma City, said in a statement Thursday. “Our patients are frightened, confused about the new reality they now live in. They are angry at a government that continues to demonstrate a reckless and enthusiastic disregard for their lives.”

Trust Women, which also has a clinic in Wichita, Kansas, pledged that its clinics will stay “open and accessible to pregnant people who need help finding resources and providers wherever abortions remain legal.”

It also arrives as the country waits for a ruling in a Supreme Court case that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Earlier this month, a leaked draft opinion from the majority-conservative Supreme Court indicated that the justices do plan to overturn Roe, which would let states once again regulate abortion as they see fit.

Without Roe’s protections, abortion would be outlawed in Oklahoma. The state is one of at least 13 states that have laws on the books that would ban the procedure as soon as Roe is overturned. In total, roughly half of the United States is certain or likely to ban abortion if Roe falls, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion restrictions.