The Republican-controlled Oklahoma state legislature passed a bill on Thursday that is modeled after the six-week abortion ban that Texas implemented last fall, which allows private residents to sue abortion providers in order to enforce the ban.
Like Texas’s six-week abortion ban, the bill places the onus of enforcement on individuals rather than the state. In other words, the state wouldn’t force abortion providers to abide by the new rules — instead, it would incentivize private residents to enforce the rules by allowing them to sue medical providers or any other individual who helps someone get an abortion. Residents would be allowed to sue those who helped them get an abortion if the bill were passed into law. for $10,000 for every abortion performed.
Although the Texas law’s enforcement method is still controversial, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor. The law has been allowed to stand in place while lower court judges consider its legality.
Notably, the Oklahoma bill also restricts the defenses a person can make if they are being sued by another individual that claims they’re in violation of the law — a person cannot state in their defense, for example, a belief that the abortion ban is unconstitutional.
According to state Rep. Cyndi Munson (D), the Oklahoma bill was passed without a “questions and answers” or even a debate on the measure.
Proponents of the bill have referred to it as the “Oklahoma Heartbeat Act,” claiming that six weeks into pregnancy is when the fetal “heartbeat” becomes detectable. But medical experts say that such characterizations of what’s happening to the embryo at that stage of pregnancy are wrong.
“What we’re really detecting is a grouping of cells that are initiating some electrical activity. In no way is this detecting a functional cardiovascular system or a functional heart,” said Dr. Jennifer Kerns, an OB-GYN and associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, in an interview with NPR last fall.
The bill now goes on to the desk of Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt has pledged to sign all anti-abortion bills that are sent his way.
This was earlier in the month Stitt signed a bill into lawThis would make any provision of abortion services at any stage a crime. But that law won’t go into effect right away, and will likely face fierce legal challenges once it does, unless the U.S. Supreme Court curtails or dismantles abortion rights protectionsThese were established in the 1973 landmark ruling Roe v. Wade. However, the bill banning abortion after six week will be in effect immediately after Stitt signs.