A bill that would effectively prohibit most abortions in Oklahoma was on its way to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk after the GOP-led state House approved the measure without debate or discussion Thursday.
The governor was expected to sign the bill in the coming days, making Oklahoma the latest state to embrace severe abortion restrictions since neighboring Texas banned them last fall.
The Oklahoma Heartbeat Act would bar abortion after cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo, which happens after about six weeks of pregnancy — before many women realize they are carrying a child. It includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for cases of rape and incest.
Earlier this month Oklahoma lawmakers voted to make performing abortions a felony and imposed $100,000 fines and ten-year prison sentences on doctors who carried out the procedure.
Abortion patients in the state are not criminalized under that measure, but like its Texas counterpart, private citizens can sue anyone who helps a woman obtain the procedure for up to $10,000.
Both bills were legally challenged by a coalition of abortion providers and advocates and their implementation could be temporarily halted by a state court, according to legal experts.
“The Oklahoma Supreme Court has repeatedly found that the state legislature’s extreme attempts to restrict abortion are unconstitutional, and these bans are some of the most extreme yet,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.
Anti-abortion advocates were confident the law would be upheld.
“It’s identical to the bill that was enacted by the Texas Legislature last year, and that bill has passed muster with the United States Supreme Court,” Oklahomans for Life chairman Tony Lauinger said.
House members also voted Thursday to ban transgender students from using bathrooms not associated with their birth sex assignment and to require parents to be notified of classroom sex and gender lessons.
A third bill that would ban all abortions outright passed the Oklahoma State Senate Thursday and was headed to the House.
Democratic lawmakers said the blitz on reproductive rights and LGBTQ issues across the aisle was designed to shore up support for GOP reelection campaigns.
“They’re all concerned about their elections coming up and making sure they have something they can put on a postcard to talk about,” said Rep. Andy Fugate, a Midwest City Democrat.
The laws come after The Sooner State saw its abortion rate soar as Texas women traveled north to legally abort their unborn children.
Planned Parenthoods in Oklahoma had seen an 800% increase in patients from Texas after Austin lawmakers banned abortion without exceptions, according to officials.
“We’re serving as many Texans as Oklahomans right now, in some cases more Texans than Oklahomans,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates two abortion clinics in Oklahoma.
Thursday’s legislative action came after Idaho passed a copy-cat bill of the Texas ban, which has been temporarily blocked by the state’s Supreme Court.
The new legislation across the Great Plains comes as a conservative US Supreme Court considers overturning a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, which was established in 1973. A decision on Roe v. Wade was expected in June.
With AP wires