Sunday, May 29, 2022



InfoCatolica. May 20, 2022. As reported by The New York Times, the Oklahoma legislature gave final approval on Thursday to a bill banning nearly all abortions from conception, making it the nation’s strictest abortion law.

(NYT/InfoCatólica) The bill allows individuals to sue abortion providers and anyone who “helps or encourages” an abortion. It would take effect immediately when signed by Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican who has pledged to make Oklahoma the most anti-abortion state in the country.

“There can be nothing higher or more critical than defending innocent, unborn life,” State Representative Jim Olsen, a Republican, said Thursday on the floor of the Oklahoma House, where the bill passed by 73-16 votes. 

The measure is modeled on a law that went into effect in Texas in September that banned abortion after about six weeks and relied on civil rather than criminal enforcement to evade legal challenges. Because of that provision — the law explicitly says state authorities can’t bring charges — the U.S. Supreme Court and state courts have said they can’t block the ban, even if it violates the constitutional right to abortion enshrined in Roe v. wade.

The Oklahoma ban goes beyond Texas law, which prohibits abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. The bill defines an unborn child as “a human fetus or embryo at any stage of pregnancy from conception to birth.” Anti-abortion groups, which believe abortion is murder, have tried unsuccessfully since the 1973 Roe decision to pass federal or state legislation defining life as beginning at conception.

Thursday’s vote was the latest move by the Republican-led Oklahoma legislature, in conjunction with Mr. Stitt, to scrap abortion rights until the procedure is almost completely banned. Together, they have placed their state at the head of the pack of Republican-led states rushing to pass laws restricting or banning abortion in the expectation that the Supreme Court will soon overthrow Roe. A leaked draft opinion written by Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. — along with oral arguments in the present case, regarding a Mississippi law prohibiting the procedure beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy — indicated the court was willing to do so. 

In Oklahoma, multiple Democrats in the State House begged their colleagues not to pass the bill on Thursday. Several urged Oklahoma to focus more on financing family planning services, or improving the lives of young Oklahomans living in poverty.

The bill makes exceptions for rape and incest cases, but only if those crimes have been reported to the police.

Panic Among Abortion Entrepreneurs

Opponents of abortion increasingly rely on civil enforcement to achieve long-standing goals. Even in the absence of lawsuits against abortion providers, civil enforcement laws have left a chilling effect on abortion providers and distributors of abortion pills who stop working for fear of prosecution.

“This is not a fire drill,” said Emily Wales, the president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which has operations in Oklahoma. “This is not a rehearsal for what is to come. We now live in this real world. The Supreme Court will make that final this summer.”

Other states have tried to ban abortion during pregnancy but have been held back by court order because the Roe decision states that states cannot ban abortion before viability, or about 24 weeks. States, including Mississippi, have attempted voting initiatives that define fetuses as persons, leading abortion to murder, but have failed.

No state currently prohibits abortion after conception. Oklahoma law attempts to do this by using a legal tactic that the courts have allowed: civil enforcement.

If signed by the governor, the Oklahoma law would cut off another option for Texas women flooded across the state line to seek legal action, and it aims to punish even those out of state who assist Oklahoma women in getting abortions.

In 2017, the last year for which statistics were available, there were 4,780 abortions in Oklahoma, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. As in most states, the number of abortions in Oklahoma had fallen. But Texas law resulted in an influx of women entering Oklahoma to have abortions. Planned Parenthood said its Oklahoma health centers saw the number of patients from Texas increase by 2,500 percent in the first three months of the law.

Oklahoma already has a trigger ban that would immediately ban abortion if the court overturns Roe, as well as an abortion ban that has been on the books since the Roe decision. Two weeks ago, just after Alito’s draft advice was leaked, Mr. Stitt issued a six-week ban that was closely modeled on Texas law. The previous month, he had signed a law that will come into effect at the end of August banning abortion completely except to save the mother’s life. That ban imposes criminal penalties on abortion providers.

The latest bill in Oklahoma was denounced by the Biden administration as the most extreme example of lawmakers overturning the right to abortion.