Pro-choice advocates and abortion providers are suing to block Oklahoma’s new sweeping abortion ban — one of the strongest pro-life laws in the country — from taking effect.
On Wednesday, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed H.B. 4327 into law, banning abortion from the moment of conception except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. The law makes Oklahoma the first state to outlaw abortion entirely, outside those exceptions, while the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision still stands.
“I promised Oklahomans that as governor I would sign every piece of pro-life legislation that came across my desk, and I am proud to keep that promise today,” Stitt said during the signing ceremony, according to Fox News.
“From the moment life begins at conception is when we have a responsibility as human beings to do everything we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother,” he added. “That is what I believe and that is what the majority of Oklahomans believe. If other states want to pass different laws, that is their right, but in Oklahoma we will always stand up for life.”
Immediately after the bill became law, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood announced a lawsuit filed in Oklahoma state court to block the law from taking effect.
“We are seeing the beginning of a domino effect that will spread across the entire South and Midwest if Roe falls,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights in a statement.
“Banning abortion after six weeks was not extreme enough for Oklahoma lawmakers. The goal of the anti-abortion movement is to ensure no one can access abortion at any point for any reason,” she added.
Oklahoma’s new law covers any procedures that “cause the death of an unborn child,” which is defined as a “human fetus or embryo in any stage of gestation from fertilization until birth.” Similar to the Texas fetal heartbeat law, the Oklahoma ban is enforced through private actors who can bring a civil lawsuit against abortionists or anyone who aids and abets an abortion.
The Center for Reproductive Rights argues the abortion ban will harm “people seeking abortion” by placing a financial burden on women to travel out of state to kill their unwanted child.
“Those who are unable to access care out of state due to limited financial resources, paid time off work, or access to transportation and other barriers may attempt to self-manage an abortion without support from a health care provider or be faced with forced pregnancy, which is a violation of their human rights,” the organization said in a press release.
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide the future of abortion in America with a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case concerning the legality of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. A draft court majority opinion leaked earlier this month indicated the court has voted to overturn Roe, which would permit each state to create its own laws concerning abortion.
The court’s decision will not be final until an official opinion is released, which is expected sometime in June or early July.