Oklahoma Legislature Passes Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Ban

Oklahoma Legislature Passes Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Ban
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks after signing into law a pro-life bill in Oklahoma City, Okla., on April 12, 2022. (Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo)
Zachary Stieber

Oklahoma lawmakers on May 19 approved what would be the nation’s most restrictive ban on abortion if Gov. Kevin Stitt signs the measure into law.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Bill 4327 in a 73–16 vote; the state Senate approved the measure in April by a margin of 35–10.

The bill bans abortion at fertilization, defining the moment as “the fusion of a human spermatozoon with a human ovum.” It says that a person shall not perform or attempt to perform an abortion unless the procedure is necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman or the pregnancy is a result of rape, sexual assault, or incest.

Lawmakers modeled the legislation after a Texas measure that enables citizens to bring lawsuits against abortion providers but precludes enforcement by state officials. That bill has survived legal challenges, including at the Supreme Court.

State Rep. Wendi Stearman, a Republican who sponsored the Oklahoma legislation, said it would be “the most effective lifesaving anti-abortion law in the entire nation” if enacted. State Sen. Julie Daniels, a Republican who sponsored the bill in the upper chamber, said it would “save many innocent lives by acting as a deterrent to those who perform abortions.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was among groups that criticized the bill, saying it “would ban abortion entirely.”

“Politicians aren’t waiting for the Supreme Court’s ruling to block our access to abortion,” the group said in a statement.

In 1973, the nation’s top court, through its Roe v. Wade decision, said access to abortion is a constitutional right as long as an unborn baby could not survive outside the womb.

According to a leaked draft opinion, a majority of justices will issue a ruling in favor of a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. If justices follow through, the ruling would overturn Roe v. Wade.

The Oklahoma bill contains a trigger that would impose it immediately once it is signed into law.

Planned Parenthood and other groups launched a lawsuit against the legislation shortly after it was approved.

Stitt, a Republican, has previously said he will sign any pro-life bills that reach his desk. His office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

On May 3, he signed a bill that forbids abortions except for medical emergencies after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
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