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Hours after Gov. Kevin Stitt, R-Okla., signed a new law banning abortion from the moment of conception onward, the Center for Reproductive Rights announced that it and Planned Parenthood would file a lawsuit to block the law after it went into effect upon Stitt’s signature Wednesday.
The law, H.B. 4327, bans all abortions after the moment of conception except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life. The bill bans any procedures that “cause the death of an unborn child,” which it defines as a “human fetus or embryo in any stage of gestation from fertilization until birth.” The law follows Texas’ groundbreaking statute in empowering non-governmental actors to bring civil suits against people who perform or aid and abet abortions, and damages for violating the law will be set at a minimum of $10,000 per abortion.
“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 upon signing the bill.
“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,” the governor 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.”
Oklahoma became the only state in the U.S. to successfully outlaw abortion while the Supreme Court’s precedent in Roe v. Wade (1973) still stands. (Although a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion would strike down Roe, that draft was written in February and does not constitute the Court’s official ruling in the case.)
“For anyone seeking abortion in Oklahoma and beyond: Planned Parenthood and our partners are fighting for you,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement on the bill’s signing and the forthcoming challenge to it. “We will bring everything we have to make sure you can get the care you need, and challenge every ban enacted in Oklahoma.”
Two Planned Parenthood abortion providers, along with two other abortion providers and the group Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, had already filed a lawsuit challenging S.B. 1503, a law which bans abortions after cardiac activity can be detected in the embryo, which is around six weeks. That law also allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps a woman acquire an abortion.
“Plaintiffs will ask for their challenge to H.B. 4327 to be added to the plaintiffs’ existing case against S.B. 1503, which is currently pending before the Oklahoma Supreme Court,” the Center for Reproductive Justice announced Wednesday (emphasis original). Although federal challenges to Texas’ law have failed to block the abortion ban, the center claimed “there is significant precedent in Oklahoma state court to support plaintiffs’ arguments for relief.”
“We are seeing the beginning of a domino effect that will spread across the entire South and Midwest if Roe falls,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, warned in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
“Right now, patients in Oklahoma are being thrown into a state of chaos and fear,” Northup added. “That chaos will only intensify as surrounding states cut off access as well. We will not stop fighting for the people of Oklahoma and for everyone across the country. We all deserve the freedom to control our own bodies and lives.”
Tamya Cox–Touré, co-chair at Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, claimed that abortion bans amount to “systemic discrimination.”
“Ultimately, who will be prevented from having an abortion under this ban? The people who don’t have the funds or resources to travel out of state,” Cox–Touré said. “Abortion bans are systemic discrimination at work. We won’t stop fighting for Oklahomans, especially those who face often insurmountable barriers to accessing abortion: Black people, people of color, people who live in rural areas, and people struggling to make ends meet.”
Stitt also signed into law on April 12 S.B. 612, which would criminalize the abortion procedure, making it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine. The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood challenged S.B. 612 on the same say they challenged S.B. 1503, asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to block the bill before it can take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Roe.
Pro-life activists celebrated the bill’s signing.
Lila Rose, president and founder of Live Action, praised Stitt for having “just signed one of the strongest pro-life bills in the country. As of tomorrow, every abortion facility in the great state of Oklahoma will be shut down. Thousands of children’s lives will be saved. The pro-life movement is just getting started!
While states with Republican legislatures have passed laws limiting abortion, states with Democratic legislatures have passed laws codifying abortion in case Roe gets overturned. Gov. Jared Polis, D-Colo., signed a law creating a “fundamental right” to abortion and denying any right for the unborn. In 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., signed a law codifying abortion rights and explicitly removing protections from unborn infants.
The Connecticut legislature has passed a bill aimed at combating abortion restrictions in other states.
Although many polls suggest Americans support Roe, in-depth polling reveals a more complicated picture. When asked about their opinion on abortion during specific periods of pregnancy and other situations, 71% of Americans say they support restricting abortion to the first three months of pregnancy (22%), or in other limited circumstances such as rape and incest (28%), to save the life of the mother (9%) or not at all (12%). Only 17% of Americans said abortion should be available during an entire pregnancy and 12% said it should be restricted to the first six months.