Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a law Tuesday criminalizing all abortions with narrow exceptions to save the pregnant person’s life. The law could see medical providers who perform abortions sentenced to up to 10 years imprisonment.
“We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country,” Stitt said at the bill signing. “We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma.”
The ban will take effect 90 days after the state’s legislative session ends, putting it on track for enforcement by the end of August. The ban is similar in effect to laws passed last year by Arkansas and Alabama in 2019, which were blocked from taking effect by the courts.
Stitt acknowledged on Tuesday that the law could be challenged immediately. Despite a ban on abortion being in effect immediately, a number of restrictions regarding abortion are still being passed through the Oklahoma legislature. Oklahoma legislators are trying to limit abortion access with any and all means possible, as statehouses across the nation rush to pass new restrictions on abortion in advance of a Supreme Court ruling.
“Oklahoma is passing every type of abortion ban to give themselves the largest chance possible for one of them to go into effect. They may be essentially hedging their bets,” said Elizabeth Nash, who tracks state policy for the Guttmacher Institute.
With its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health OrganizationThis summer, the Supreme Court will likely weaken or eliminate federal abortion protections established under the landmark 1973 Act. Roe v. Wade case. However, the details of how the states are allowed to restrict certain items will determine how much. DobbsThe ruling is in place. And experts see moves like Oklahoma’s — attempting to pass a wide variety of different but seemingly overlapping bans — as a way to make sure one will stick.
If any of Oklahoma’s bills take effect, the impact would be tremendous. Oklahoma will soon be following the lead of Texas, which implemented its six-week ban on abortion in September. has become a haven for people seeking to terminate their pregnancies.Since September, approximately 1,400 Texans have joined the ranks have left the stateAccording to data from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, each month was for an abortion. Almost half — 45 percent — went to Oklahoma.
“This is covering all their bases, giving them the largest chance for an abortion ban to go into effect. They’re continuing down this path this year because they’re trying to read the tea leaves of the Supreme Court,” Nash said.
A state committee voted last Thursday to move forward with a bill that would mirror the Texas six-week abortion ban. Texas uses private litigations to enforce the ban. The House is still to vote on the bill. It would be effective immediately if signed by the governor.
A Senate committee voted Monday in favor of a Texas-inspired abortion ban. Instead of ending abortion access after six weeks, it would allow for civil litigation against people who “aid or abet” the provision of any abortion at any gestational age, with exceptions for rape and incest. If passed by the full Senate, it would also go to the governor’s desk – and also take effect right away. In such a case, clinics would cease providing abortions in the State.
Both the Texas-inspired abortion bans being floated have the votes to pass, and it’s not entirely clear yet which one the legislature will choose to advance. But both are expected to move forward, despite the total ban — which likely can only be enforced if the Supreme Court uses the DobbsTake a decision this summer to turn Roe — taking effect in August.
Abortion providers in Oklahoma expect that last bill, House Bill 4327, could be passed as early as next week, and it’s the restriction they are most concerned about.
These bans have already limited abortion access. Trust Women, an Oklahoma and Kansas-based abortion provider, has yet to schedule any Oklahoma abortions. At Planned Parenthood, staffers are in some cases encouraging patients to consider making appointments in Kansas and Arkansas — just in case, by the time a patient comes in for care, their abortion is no longer legal.
“We are in the position now of having to go day by day,” said Emily Wales, chief operations officer for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which serves Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.
Aside from hedging their bets with legislation, for many Republican state lawmakers, leading on anti-abortion legislation appears to be a critical winning issue — especially with midterm elections only months away.
“This is an opportunity for anti-choice politicians to profit, to secure their elections,” said Myfanwy Jensen-Fellows, director of advocacy for Trust Women. “What we’re seeing is an overarching wave of any attacks that they can on abortion care — to see what sticks as well as trying to make a name for themsleves.”
It’s not yet clear which abortion bans would withstand courts’ scrutiny. Texas’ six-week ban — the first active abortion law to rely on civil litigation instead of criminal penalties — has survived legal challenges in federal court as well as the Texas State Supreme Court, thanks to its roundabout enforcement structure. Despite the fact that the law appears to be in violation of the law, no court has intervened to stop it. Roe v. Wade protections.
Different state courts might have different rules. In Idaho, the first state to pass a Texas-inspired ban, Planned Parenthood has challenged the ban in state court, suggesting it violates Idaho’s constitutional protections. While the legal challenge ensues, the state’s Supreme Court has blocked the law from taking effect. Both Idaho’s governor and attorney general also suggested that the ban could violate their state constitution.
Even the Tuesday total ban could be challenged in court. Oklahoma’s state Supreme Court has previously ruled to block state abortion restrictions. These rulings cited federal rights protections.
If Roe is overturned or weakened, it’s not clear the state courts would step in to block new abortion bans.Oklahoma’s state constitution does guarantee a right to privacy — a provision many reproductive rights lawyers and scholarshave argued that this implies an abortion rights protection, and that could be cited when challenging any bans. In both Florida and Montana, the state’s Supreme Court has held that the right to privacy includes an abortion rights protection.
But the legislature is also advancing a measure that would ask voters to amend Oklahoma’s constitution, so that it explicitly does not protect abortion rights. The Senate approved the measure last month. If the House approves, the amendment will be presented to the voters this November.
“Legislators are determined to pass abortion bans and the state courts and constitution are not seen as a barrier, especially as more states are looking to amend their constitutions to restrict abortion rights,” Nash said.
In some states, this strategy has worked. Louisiana voters recently amended the constitution to explicitly exclude abortion rights.
Already, Oklahoma’s abortion access is limited. As thousands of Texans travel to Texas for medical care, clinics in neighboring states are also under pressure. Trust Women’s Oklahoma clinic now sees mostly patients from Texas. Its Kansas clinic is also treating a majority patients from out-of state: Texans as well as Oklahomans who are unable to get an appointment in their home states.
“Oklahomans are frustrated. They’re frustrated about why it’s hard to get appointments already,” said Emily Wales, chief operations officer for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which serves Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. “The patients we see from Texas are generally exhausted. They don’t understand why they may live from a Planned Parenthood 15 or 20 minutes away from home and couldn’t get care.”
The surge has caused clinics to be overwhelmed and abortion patients are now facing wait times of at most two weeks. Many are driving hundreds of miles to receive care and using rent money and grocery money to pay. If Oklahoma bans most or all abortions, that would futher displace thousands of Texans and Okahomans — many of whom have already faced weeks-long delays in accessing abortions. Arkansas, New Mexico, and Colorado are the closest places for care. Clinicians say they are also overwhelmed.
“This is not just going to affect the patients of Texas who are traveling to Oklahoma, but every Oklahoma patient, and patients in the surrounding area that traveled to Oklahoma at baseline,” Dr. Kristina Toccee, medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, recently told The 19th. “Everyone gets displaced and affected by this.”