ASLUT POLICY RADAR: Abortion in Oklahoma
by Elizabeth J. Wenger and Madeline Roper
On April 12, Governor Stitt signed Senate Bill 612 into law. SB612 declares a near-total ban on the performance of abortions in the state of Oklahoma.
Under this bill, performing abortions is illegal except in cases of a “medical emergency,” which the bill defines as “an abortion necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman.”
Any person performing an abortion will be guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 or by imprisonment of up to 10 years.
SB612 makes no exception for abortions in the case of rape or incest.
The bill was authored by State Senator Nathan Dahm. Upon the signing of the bill, Senator Dahm released a statement.
“Senate Bill 612 is the strongest pro-life legislation in the country right now,” Dahm said. “(It) effectively eliminates abortion in Oklahoma.”
This restrictive abortion ban is part of a larger anti-abortion movement sweeping the nation. Texas, Mississippi, Missouri, Arizona, and South Dakota have also taken legislative steps to restrict abortion.
On the occasion of the bill’s signing Stitt said, “I know this bill will be challenged immediately by liberal activists from the coast, who always seem to want to come in and dictate, and mandate, and challenge our way of life here in the state of Oklahoma.”
Stitt’s rhetoric of ‘liberal activists from the coast’ ignores many voters and organizations within Oklahoma. Evidence contrary to Stitt’s implication can be found in Oklahoma’s pro-choice voters as they speak up for the right to safe and legal abortion.
Morgan Kline is one such Oklahoman. Kline organized a pro-choice protest that is set to take place on April 30th at Guthrie Green in Tulsa, OK.
“We need to band together to create a community that is safe for everyone, inclusive, and allows us to be our true selves and speak our minds,” Kline said. “We all deserve the right to bodily autonomy, and we refuse to let anyone take it away from us. Women’s rights are human rights.”
Kline went on to comment on SB1503. Similar to the Texas Heartbeat Act, SB1503 is an even more restrictive bill that will soon reach Governor Stitt’s desk. If signed, the law would allow for civil suits to be filed against anyone aiding or abetting an abortion.
Kline said of these bills: “(They’re) a direct attack on civil rights, and an attempt to gain control over women of all kinds. (This) specifically ends up negatively affecting people of color and poorer communities the most.”
The history of abortion goes back further than the formation of any legislature or borders. Early methods included herbal abortions administered by midwives. Abortion was legal under U.S. common law until the American Medical Association formed in 1847 and launched an abortion criminalization campaign. (Note that this group did not allow female members until 1922 and refused admittance to Black physicians until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.) By 1880 each state had enacted statutes limiting abortion, fully criminalizing the medical procedure by 1910.
From 1910 to 1973 pro-choice and anti-abortion groups battled through the US legislative system over the legality of the procedure. In a landmark decision, Roe v. Wade (1973), the Supreme Court protected an individual’s right to an abortion under the penumbra of the due process clause. SB612 comes as the next challenge facing the ongoing movement to pro-choice voters in the United States.
As of late April, the Planned Parenthood Great Plains website states that they will continue to schedule and provide surgical and medical abortions. The national organization has clinics in Edmond, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa.
Additionally, the Roe Fund works with different clinics across the state to provide information on abortion services and financial assistance for patients in need. Visit roefund.org for more information.