Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Bill Criminalizing Abortion

The bill's sponsor says he hopes to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

  • Published 19 May 2016

A bill to jail doctors who perform abortions has passed Oklahoma’s state legislature.  The sweeping bill — which, if signed into law by the governor, makes performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to three years in prison — passed with no discussion and no debate:

Jennifer Miller, of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said this measure is the first of its kind and is unconstitutional.

She called on Gov. Mary Fallin to veto it, but noted the conservative governor has signed a series of anti-abortion bills that were later found unconstitutional.

“Since Gov. Fallin took office in 2011, she has signed 18 bills restricting access to reproductive health care services, including a Texas-style clinic shutdown law, a ban on the most common method of second trimester abortion, unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion, and a law that forces abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and display and describe the image,” Miller said.

The Center for Reproductive Rights sent a letter to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, urging her to veto the measure, which it describes as “blatantly unconstitutional”:

Policymakers in Oklahoma should focus on advancing policies that will truly promote women’s health and safety, not abortion restrictions that do just the opposite. Anti-choice politicians in the state have methodically restricted access to abortion and neglected to advance policies that truly address the challenges women and families face every day. According to a 2014 analysis, Oklahoma is already one of the most restrictive states in the country with respect to abortion access. And yet, Oklahoma ranks dead last in the country on overall indicators of women’s and children’s health and well-being.

The only doctor in the Senate, Ervin Yen, called Senate Bill 1552 “insane” and voted against it, saying: “I’m pro-life and a Roman Catholic, but I don’t think we should waste our time on legislation that someone will declare unconstitutional.”

The bill’s sponsor, Nathan Dahm, said that he wants the bill to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that a right to privacy extended to a woman’s right to have an abortion:

“Since I believe life begins at conception, it should be protected, and I believe it’s a core function of state government to defend that life from the beginning of conception,” said Dahm, R-Broken Arrow.

On 20 May 2016, OKlahoma governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma vetoed the bill, acknowledging that it was virtually certain to be struck down by the courts and saying that the way to overturn Roe v. Wade was through “the appointment of a conservative, pro-life justice to the United States Supreme Court.”

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