Abortion Providers in Oklahoma Are Now at Risk of Being Sued for the ‘Wrongful Death’ of a Fetus​​

Would-be parents and grandparents will be allowed to file lawsuits in November.
May 26, 2020, 4:00pm
In this Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 file photo, abortion opponents cheer for a speaker at a rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma House approved a bill on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, to suspend the medical license of any doctors who perform abor

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Doctors who perform abortions in Oklahoma are now facing the threat of “wrongful death” lawsuits because Republican legislators in the state believe women are being coerced into abortions.

Under the law, abortion providers can be sued if if the woman is given false information or if the abortion causes the woman “physical or psychological harm” that she didn’t foresee or wasn’t given information about prior to the procedure. But abortion providers already interview patients to ensure that they’re not being coerced into the procedure. Plus, doctors in all fields regularly walk their patients through the purpose, risks, and benefits of any procedure beforehand.

The bill, signed into law by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt late last week, is set to take effect in November. Would-be parents and grandparents will be allowed to file lawsuits.

“Doctors are not intimidated by any means by these laws because they know that they are following every regulation,” Tamya Cox-Toure, regional director of public policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, told a local news outlet. Her organization is already weighing suing over the law, which the organization says is unnecessary.

“Whether it’s an unnecessary regulation that Oklahoma continues to pass, they are providing every regulation that is necessary to promote the best care for patients,” Cox-Toure added.

While abortion foes frequently claim that people suffer psychologically after abortions, a landmark study from the University of California at San Francisco found that just 6% of people had primarily negative feelings about their abortions five years after undergoing the procedure. More than 80% reported having primarily positive emotions — or no emotions about it at all.

“Once these fraudulent schemes are exposed and no longer available, thousands of unborn babies will be saved every year,” Oklahoma state Sen. David Bullard, a Republican, said in a statement. “When women and families choose to use this power to make Oklahoma an abortion desert, countless innocent lives will be saved.”

In Oklahoma, people who want abortions must already undergo counseling, wait 72 hours, and then get the procedure. As part of that counseling, they must be offered written information that states that personhood begins at conception and that incorrectly suggests that abortion is linked to a risk of breast cancer, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks abortion restrictions.

By treating fetuses like fully grown people who can die, the new Oklahoma law also plays into a larger effort by abortion foes to grant fetuses legal rights and protections. If they secure these rights, some anti-abortion activists believe that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority will have the justification to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Oklahoma was one of nearly a dozen states that tried to cite the coronavirus pandemic as a reason to temporarily ban abortion. In April, a federal appeals court ruled to let abortions continue in the state.

Cover: FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 file photo, abortion opponents cheer for a speaker at a rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma House approved a bill on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, to suspend the medical license of any doctors who perform abortions, setting up a likely court challenge if the measure is signed into law. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)