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Reproductive rights and anti-choice protesters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court before the start of oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case on December 1, 2021

Reproductive rights and anti-choice protesters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court before the start of oral arguments in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case on December 1, 2021. The case considers the constitutionality of Mississippi's restrictive ban on abortion after 15 weeks. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Strictest US Abortion Ban While Roe Still Stands

Reproductive rights supporters vowed to fight against the ban that begins at fertilization and, like legislation in Texas, "creates a bounty-hunting scheme" for enforcement.

Jessica Corbett

After a Thursday vote by Oklahoma legislators, the state is poised to enact the country's most restrictive abortion ban, which now just awaits an anticipated signature from Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt—a development widely denounced by defenders of reproductive freedom.

Abortion is currently only legal in Oklahoma until about six weeks of pregnancy. The Legislature's passage of House Bill 4327 comes as the nation prepares for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and follows Stitt recently signing two other anti-choice bills.

The new measure—which would take effect immediately once signed—bans abortion "from fertilization until birth," with exceptions to save the life of a pregnant person and for cases of rape and incest reported to law enforcement. It is also partially modeled on Senate Bill 8, a controversial law enacted in Texas last year that empowers anti-choice vigilantes.

The Center for Reproductive Rights explained in a series of tweets Thursday that "H.B. 4327 creates a bounty-hunting scheme similar to Texas's #SB8, which encourages the general public to bring lawsuits against abortion providers, health center workers, or any person who helps someone access abortion in Oklahoma."

The center's CEO, Nancy Northup, said that "politicians in Oklahoma have been working towards this moment for decades Multiple generations of Oklahomans have relied on abortion access to shape their lives and futures. They have never known a world without that right."

"But under this bill, people will be forced to travel hundreds of miles for an abortion, and those who cannot afford to travel will be forced to give birth against their will or attempt to end their pregnancies on their own," warned Northup, whose group has vowed to fight the looming law.

The ACLU also pledged to keep battling "laws that force pregnancy on people against their will" while warning that the Oklahoma ban specifically "exposes doctors, abortion funds, and even friends and family to bounties of at least $10,000."

The legal group also highlighted that "politicians aren't waiting for the Supreme Court's ruling to block our access to abortion."

Oklahoma has a "trigger ban" that would outlaw abortion if Roe falls—as it is expected to in the weeks ahead, based on Justice Samuel Alito's leaked draft majority opinion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the reversal of the 1973 ruling could end the right to abortion in over half of U.S. states.

"This isn't a fire drill," Emily Wales, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, told The New York Times of the development in Oklahoma. "This is not a rehearsal for what's to come. We are living in this real world right now. The Supreme Court will finalize that this summer."

The Times also noted an exchange between state Reps. Cyndi Munson (D-85) and Wendi Stearman (R-11) on the floor of the Oklahoma House over the ban's limited exceptions:

"Can you explain to me why you're OK with a person carrying on a pregnancy after they have been raped or there has been instances of incest?" Ms. Munson asked. "You understand what incest is, correct? You are OK with that?"

"I am OK with preserving the life of the child," Wendi Stearman, the Republican sponsor, responded. "The child was not part of that decision."

Wales of Planned Parenthood said that "at this point, we are preparing for the most restrictive environment politicians can create: a complete ban on abortion with likely no exceptions."

"It's the worst-case scenario for abortion care in the state of Oklahoma," she added.

The Oklahoman reported that the state House passed the ban in "a 73-16 vote that saw two Republicans break party ranks to oppose the measure."

Amid alarm over GOP attacks on reproductive rights and Alito's draft opinion, Senate Democrats recently renewed their effort to pass the Women's Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe, but Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined with Republicans, yet again, to prevent a final vote in the evenly split chamber, where Vice President Kamala Harris breaks ties.

Harris joined reproductive rights groups in blasting the new measure, saying that "today, Oklahoma passed a law effectively banning abortion from the moment of fertilization—the latest in a series of blatant attacks on women by extremist legislators. It has never been more urgent that we elect pro-choice leaders at the local, state, and federal level."

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