Abortion Providers Sue Oklahoma over Expansive Pro-Life Law

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A group of abortion providers sued Oklahoma Thursday over a recently enacted expansive pro-life law, signed by Republican Governor Kevin Stitt Wednesday, that prohibits most abortions after fertilization.

Filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the legal challenge aims to block the law’s implementation, which also follows the leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft majority opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that legalized abortion on a national level. The final decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health from the High Court, which determines the fate of Roe, has not been released yet.

The new Oklahoma law bans abortions from the stage of “fertilization,” although it includes exceptions for rape and incest that are reported to law enforcement and cases in which the life of the mother is endangered.

The legislation adopts the novel enforcement mechanism of a similar Texas law banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which allows private citizens to sue physicians and individuals who perform or abet an abortion. In March of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case with a temporary stay. On April 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ordered all challenges to the law dismissed.

Texas’s success with pro-life measures has inspired similar initiatives in other Republican-controlled states such as Idaho and Ohio. Oklahoma also passed its own version of the Texas heartbeat law earlier this year, which the state Supreme Court refused to halt immediately while agreeing to hear arguments in the case this summer. According to that law, anyone who helps a woman abort a pregnancy may be sued for up to $10,000 per abortion.

After the Texas heartbeat law was imposed, abortion clinics in Oklahoma experienced a surge in out-of-state patients requesting their services, some upwards of 800 percent, as they traveled to seek abortions. If the Oklahoma abortion ban survives the legal challenges, it is expected to reduce that outflow.

Some Republican states have initiated “trigger” legislation that would immediately outlaw abortion at certain or most stages of pregnancy in the event that Roe is reversed. Some Democratic states have done the opposite, however. For instance, in April Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a bill codifying the “fundamental right” to abortion, contraception, and other forms of “reproductive health-care” in anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs.

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