The Oklahoma state legislature passed a bill this week that will ban almost all abortions in the state — and which could potentially also place restrictions on some types of birth control.
The bill, which passed in the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives on Thursday, bans all abortion procedures from the moment of fertilization onward. The bill makes limited exceptions for victims of rape and incest, but victims of such crimes would only be permitted to have an abortion if they file a police report. (It’s estimated that only 36 percent of rape incidents, nationwide, are ever reported.)
If passed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt — a Republican who has vowed to sign all anti-abortion pieces of legislation that reach his desk — it would be enforced using a mechanism that is currently being utilized in Texas; residents will be incentivized to sue abortion providers (or anyone else that helps someone in Oklahoma get an abortion) for sums of $10,000.
The Oklahoma bill would be even more restrictive than Texas’s law, as Texas allows abortions until a person is six week pregnant, while the Oklahoma bill would ban all abortions starting from the moment an egg is fertilized. Medical experts have noted that such restrictions contradict what scientists have defined as pregnancy; a person is not considered pregnant until a fertilized egg is implanted.
The inaccurate definition of pregnancy included in the Oklahoma bill means that certain types of birth control — including Plan B and intrauterine devices (IUDs), which prevent fertilized eggs from implanting — could also conceivably be banned.
Democrats in the state House of Representatives implored their Republican colleagues, who vastly outnumber them in the chamber, to reconsider passing the bill.
“Legislation like this, on the surface, says that we are going to end abortion in our state. The manner in which it chooses to do so is punitive, it’s speculative and it draws the worst of us together,” Democratic state Rep. Trish Ranson said.
The White House also weighed in on the passage of the bill, with Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre blasting the legislation as being “extreme.”
“Today’s action by the Oklahoma legislature is the most extreme effort to undo these fundamental rights we have seen to date,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Thursday.
The highly restrictive bill “is part of a growing effort by ultra MAGA officials across the country to roll back the freedoms we should not take for granted in this country,” she went on.
Far right conservatives “are starting with reproductive rights, but the American people need to know that other fundamental rights, including the right to contraception and marriage equality, are at risk,” Jean-Pierre said.
Prior to the vote, the grassroots organization Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice condemned the bill. The ban will have far-reaching effects, and will “harm Oklahomans, Texans, and folks around the country,” the organization said in a tweet.
Reproductive justice activist Renee Bracey Sherman called on the White House to take a proactive stance against the legislation, instead of just sending a bill to Congress that will eventually get blocked by Republicans and conservative Democrats.
“This is absolutely unconstitutional. It’s time for the President to declare a public health emergency,” Sherman said. “We need to feel the ‘whole of government’ response.”