Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the country’s strictest abortion ban on May 25, making the state the first in the U.S. to effectively end abortion procedures.
Oklahoma lawmakers passed a ban similar to last year’s Texas “Pro-Life Act,” which will be enforced through civil rather than criminal proceedings, the Associated Press reported May 25. The abortion ban law, which took effect immediately after Stitt signed it, allows abortions to be performed “to save the life of a pregnant woman” or “after a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest has been reported to law enforcement. Notably, Oklahoma also has an abortion bill that will take effect this summer, making abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
“I made a promise to Oklahoma that as governor I would sign every piece of anti-abortion legislation that came across my desk, and I’m proud to make good on that promise today.” Stitt released a statement saying, “Life begins at the moment of conception, and we as human beings have a responsibility to do what we can to protect the lives of babies and mothers. That is what I believe, and what the majority of Oklahomans believe.”
With two of Oklahoma’s four abortion clinics now closed to providing abortion services, and the two remaining clinics expected to cease services soon, it is unclear how women who qualify for exceptions to the abortion ban will need to fight for their rights (rape and incest are not included in the bill’s exceptions). State Rep. Wendi Stearman, the author of the state’s anti-abortion bill, said doctors will have the right to decide which women qualify for abortions and to provide them with surgical services at the hospital. But abortion rights activists warn that in some cases, trying to prove eligibility to meet the bill’s exceptions could be difficult and even trigger secondary harms.
The bills are part of an aggressive campaign to curtail abortion rights in Republican-led states, the report said. This comes after a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court suggested the justices were considering weakening or overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago.