Chris Lieberman, FISM News
Oklahoma’s state legislature passed one of the strongest pro-life bills in the country on Thursday, banning nearly all abortions after conception.
HB 4327, modeled after the Texas Heartbeat Bill, allows citizens to seek legal action against anyone who performs, aids, or abets an abortion after the moment of fertilization. The bill now goes to Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has promised to sign any pro-life legislation that crosses his desk into law.
Rep. Wendi Stearman (R), who sponsored the bill, celebrated its passage, saying, “It is my sincere hope that, in addition to the criminal bill passed this session, this civil liability bill will provide strong, additional protection of the life of unborn children in Oklahoma.”
The bill makes exceptions for abortions when medically necessary to save the life of the mother. It also specifically states that abortion “does not include the use, prescription, administration, procuring, or selling of Plan B, morning-after pills, or any other type of contraception or emergency contraception.”
The legislature’s 73-16 vote to pass the measure followed hours of impassioned debate from both supporters and critics of the bill. “There is no higher principle than the protection of innocent life,” said state Rep. Jim Olsen (R) during the debate. “Innocent, unborn life. There can be no higher cause that we as a body can address.”
Once signed into law, this will be the third piece of major pro-life legislation approved by Stitt this year. Previously, the state passed laws criminalizing the performing of abortions with punishments of up to $100,000 in fines and 10 years in prison, and a heartbeat bill banning most abortions after six weeks. This law differs from the previous abortion ban in that, as in Texas, it deputizes private citizens to sue abortion providers or those who aid an abortion. The law bears no penalty for the woman who has an abortion.
Thursday’s vote came around the same time Vice President Kamala Harris was holding a virtual meeting with abortion providers. Harris was quick to attack the new measure, calling it “the latest in a series of blatant attacks on women by extremist legislators” in a tweet.
Planned Parenthood tweeted, “This ban will take effect as soon as the governor signs the bill, making Oklahoma the first state to outlaw abortion entirely — even while Roe v. Wade still stands.” The organization vowed to bring legal challenges against the new law.
Oklahoma is just one of many Republican-led states that have passed restrictions on abortion this year as the Supreme Court weighs whether or not to overturn Roe v. Wade. The draft opinion leaked earlier this month, which seems to indicate that the court intends to roll back Roe, has further emboldened conservative lawmakers to pursue pro-life legislation, knowing that the issue will likely be determined by the states going forward.