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Oklahoma Makes It a Felony to Peform Abortions

Featured, Government

Felony stamp and handcuffs | Image by Novikov Aleksey

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Oklahoma’s Legislature passed an anti-abortion law on April 5 that would make performing an abortion in the state a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Doctors would be allowed to provide an abortion only to save a pregnant mother’s life.

The Republican-controlled House voted 70-14 to send the bill, passed in the Senate last year, to Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt. If Stitt signs it into law, it will take effect this summer.

Aside from the changes this law will mean for Oklahoma women who seek abortions, Texas women who want abortions will experience its effects as well.

Texas’ ban on abortions after six weeks of gestation went into effect in September 2021. As a result, Texas women seeking abortions began traveling out of state to undergo the procedure.

Of the Texan women who got out-of-state abortions between September and December, 45% went to Oklahoma, according to a study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

In the seven months since the Texas law went into effect, Oklahoma’s four abortion clinics have seen a combined 600 additional patients per month. Because clinics cannot keep up with demand, the waitlist has gotten so long that patients are being seen at later and later stages of pregnancy.

“A state of emergency exists in Oklahoma,” said State Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R), referring to the number of abortions performed in the state since the Texas law began to be enforced.

“It’s sickening,” Treat said. “And that’s the reason we’re making every effort to get our laws changed.”

In just two hours on April 6, Oklahoma’s Trust Women abortion clinics allegedly received more than 200 phone calls from women trying to make appointments to have the procedure. They were told they would have to wait several weeks.

According to Communications Director Zach Gingrich-Gaylord, this has been the norm since August 31, 2021.

To accommodate the influx of women seeking abortions in the state, the two Trust Women clinics have scaled their operations down to strictly performing abortions, doubled clinic days, and added half a dozen doctors.

Despite these efforts, clinics have had to turn many people away. Some patients unable to obtain an abortion in Oklahoma left for nearby states like Kansas.

“Oklahoma is going from a state where we’ve been a haven for refugees who’ve needed support to a state that has chosen to make refugees of its own citizens,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which has facilities in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri.

The bill is not the only one concerning abortion that Oklahoma’s Legislature has seen this year as Republican-led states nationwide enact anti-abortion legislation.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives recently passed a bill that echoes Texas’, banning abortions by allowing the public to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion. The bill is currently in front of the Senate.

The Oklahoma law will likely contradict the Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey decisions. However, the Supreme Court is scheduled to rule this summer on a Mississippi case that could reverse both rulings, allowing legislation like Oklahoma’s to stand up to legal scrutiny.      

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