The Oklahoma House gave final approval Thursday to a Texas-style abortion law that prohibits the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy — before many women know they are pregnant, critics say.
The bill approved by the GOP-led House without discussion or debate now heads to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign it within days. The assault on abortion rights is one of several culture-war issues conservatives in GOP-led states have embraced, like restricting LGBTQ rights, that drive the party’s base in an election year.
A coalition of Oklahoma abortion providers and abortion rights advocates immediately filed separate legal challenges in state court to both the Texas-style ban and a separate bill Stitt signed earlier this month to make abortion a felony. Legal experts say it’s likely both measures could be temporarily halted before they take effect.
House members also voted Thursday to adopt new language prohibiting transgender students from using school restrooms that match their gender identity and requiring parental notification ahead of any classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The abortion bill, dubbed the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, prohibits the procedure once cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo, which experts say is roughly six weeks into a pregnancy. A similar bill approved in Texas last year led to a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions performed in that state, with many women going to Oklahoma and other surrounding states for the procedure.
Like the Texas law, the Oklahoma bill would allow private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion for up to $10,000. After the U.S. Supreme Court allowed that mechanism to remain in place, other Republican-led states sought to copy Texas’ ban. Idaho’s governor signing the first copycat measure in March, although it has been temporarily blocked by the state’s Supreme Court.
Although Stitt already signed a bill this year to make performing an abortion a felony crime in Oklahoma, that measure is not set to take effect until this summer. The bill approved by the House on a 68-12 vote on Thursday has an “emergency” provision that allows it to take effect immediately after the governor signs it.
Abortion providers say it will immediately end most abortions in Oklahoma unless a court intervenes.
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