Oklahoma is poised to implement the strictest anti-abortion law in the nation after state lawmakers on Wednesday gave final passage to a Texas-style ban that begins at conception.
Nearly all abortions would be prohibited under the legislation that would take effect immediately upon Gov. Kevin Stitt’s signature.
Abortion providers plan to challenge in court the measure that could take effect any day.
Related: Abortion rights supporters rally Saturday at Oklahoma Capitol
The bill flouts longstanding abortion protections at a time when the U.S. Supreme Court has signaled it is willing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that upheld the right to abortion.
The House passed House Bill 4327 by Rep. Wendi Stearman, R-Collinsville, on a 73-16 vote that saw two Republicans break party ranks to oppose the measure.
The bill allows private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” a woman seeking an abortion at any point in her pregnancy. The woman pursuing the procedure could not be sued.
Limited exceptions include abortions necessary to save a woman’s life and those performed to end pregnancies that occurred due to rape or incest so long as the woman reported the crime to law enforcement.
In a meeting with abortion providers at the White House on Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris criticized the legislation.
“In Oklahoma, the state legislature passed one of the most extreme abortion bans in the country: a ban that would outlaw abortion from the moment of fertilization,” Harris said.
“It’s outrageous, and it’s just the latest in a series of extreme laws around the country.”
Emotional debate preceded vote on Oklahoma’s near-total abortion ban
Emotions ran high on the House floor as legislators asked questions and debated the bill for nearly two hours.
The vote spurred Republican Rep. Garry Mize, who is not seeking reelection, to express frustration with the Legislature for not doing more to help pregnant Oklahomans get help and resources.
He said: “What are we doing? Are we actually going to put our money where our mouth is?”
Mize voted against the bill after noting he had voted in favor of every other anti-abortion bill that had come up during his four years at the Capitol.
Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont, was near tears as she talked about her abortion decades ago, a procedure she now regrets.
“Let me tell you the story of the pain and regret and guilt and depression,” she said.
After first going public about her abortion, Crosswhite Hader said she talked to countless Oklahomans about the regret they felt after undergoing the procedure or paying for someone to do so.
Planned Parenthood Great Plains Interim President and CEO Emily Wales said the abortion ban approved by the Legislature is a reversal of history because it goes against decades of legal abortion access established by Roe v. Wade.
“Today’s ban, which encourages bounty hunters to sue their neighbors or strangers for accessing abortion care at any stage of pregnancy is a reversal of history happening in front of our eyes,” she said. “Once signed, abortion will be illegal in Oklahoma. Full stop.”
More: What we know, and what we don’t, about Oklahoma’s 6-week abortion ban
Gov. Kevin Stitt likely to sign the newly passed abortion ban
If approved, this bill would supersede a Texas-style abortion ban Stitt signed earlier this month that largely prohibits the procedure after six weeks.
Stitt, who has vowed to sign all anti-abortion bills that advance to his desk, is expected to sign HB 4327.
In a recent Fox News appearance, Stitt defended signing the six-week abortion ban and a bill to classify performing an abortion as a felony, punishable by 10 years in prison or $100,000 in fines.
“We believe that life begins at conception, and we’re going to protect life,” Stitt said.
Access to emergency contraception, sometimes called “Plan B” or the “morning after” pill, would not be affected by this legislation.
Related: Oklahoma’s latest abortion ban means chaos for patients seeking them out, advocates say
Stearman said she introduced the bill because she saw that similar legislation in Texas had successfully reduced the number of abortions in the state.
After Texas implemented Senate Bill 8, Oklahoma abortion clinics saw an influx of patients from across the Red River.
Stearman said her bill will work hand-in-hand with already approved legislation to criminalize abortion.
“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,” she said in a statement.
Contributing: Francesca Chambers, USA Today
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