Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stitt signed aTuesday that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, part of a in GOP-led states in the hope that the conservative US Supreme Court will uphold new restrictions.
Stitt’s signing of the bill comes on the heels of aof the nation’s highest court that is considering weakening or overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade who legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago.
The bill Stitt signed takes effect immediately upon her signature, but abortion rights advocates have already challenged the new law in court. It’s unclear when the Oklahoma Supreme Court might rule on the case, but abortion providers say that once the new law takes effect, they will immediately stop providing services unless the court intervenes.
“There are going to be people who will lose access, even if the disruption to services is brief,” said Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates abortion clinics in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
The new law bans abortions once cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo, which experts say is about six weeks pregnant, before many women know they are pregnant. A similar bill passed in Texas last year led to a dramatic drop in the number of abortions performed in that state, with many women going to Oklahoma and other neighboring states for the procedure.
Dr. Iman Alsaden, medical director of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, saidhas given its employees a glimpse of what a post-Roe country might look like.
“Since that day, my colleagues and I have regularly treated patients fleeing their communities to seek care,” Alsaden said. “They are taking time off from work, taking time off from school, and taking time off from their family responsibilities to get the care that through September 2021 they were able to get safely and easily in their communities.”
The bill authorizes abortions if performed as a result of a medical emergency, but there are no exceptions if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Like the Texas law, the Oklahoma bill would allow private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion for up to $10,000. After the US Supreme Court allowed that mechanism to remain in place, other Republican-led states tried to copy the Texas ban. Idaho’s governor signed the first copycat measure in March, though it has been temporarily blocked by the state Supreme Court.
Stitt earlier this year signed a bill to makecrime in Oklahoma, but that measure won’t go into effect until this summer, and legal experts say it’s likely to be blocked because the It is still the law of the land.
The number of abortions performed each year in Oklahoma, which has four abortion clinics, has fallen steadily over the past two decades, from more than 6,200 in 2002 to 3,737 in 2020, the fewest in more than 20 years, according to Oklahoma data. State Department of Health. In 2020, before the Texas law was passed, about 9% of abortions performed in Oklahoma were to Texas women.
Before the Texas ban went into effect on Sept. 1, about 40 Texas women had abortions in Oklahoma each month, the data shows. That number jumped to 222 Texas women in September and 243 in October.