Oklahoma Legislature Passes Texas-Like Ban on Abortions After 6 Weeks of Pregnancy

It's one of multiple pieces of anti-abortion legislation that Oklahoma has passed this month, and would take effect as soon as Gov. Kevin Sitt signs the bill into law

Abortion Ban Oklahoma
Emily Wales, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, speaks to abortion rights advocates outside the Oklahoma Capitol. Photo: Sean Murphy/AP/Shutterstock

Oklahoma's legislature passed a bill that would ban abortions after six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant, and allows for private citizens to enforce the law.

On Thursday, Oklahoma's House and Senate agreed to the "Oklahoma Heartbeat Act," Senate Bill 1503, which prohibits abortions as soon as a fetus has early cardiac activity, typically at six weeks of pregnancy. There are exceptions for medical emergencies, but none for cases of rape or incest.

Modeled after Texas' ban, it also gives private citizens the ability to act as whistleblowers and bring civil lawsuits against anyone who performs an abortion, plans to perform an abortion or knowingly aids in an abortion. Those charged could owe up to $10,000. There are exceptions, and the person who had the abortion cannot be charged, nor can a person who impregnated someone by rape, sexual assault or incest bring about a lawsuit.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Sitt, a Republican, has previously said that he will sign any legislation that restricts abortion, and is expected to sign Senate Bill 1503 into law. Once he does, it will take effect immediately.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signs into law a bill making it a felony to perform an abortion
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signing SB 612 into law on April 12. Sue Ogrocki/AP/Shutterstock

That differs from another piece of legislation that Sitt signed into law at the beginning of April that bans abortions in almost all cases and makes performing them a felony, Senate Bill 612. Under the law, abortions are only allowed if the mother's life is at stake, regardless of how many weeks someone is in their pregnancy, and there are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

That bill is not set to take effect until August 26 and could be blocked by the courts, which led Oklahoma to pass this six-week ban, as a similar version has survived legal challenges in Texas.

Oklahoma has seen an influx of people seeking abortions from Texas ever since their six-week ban went into effect in September. Abortions in Texas have dropped 60% since then, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, while the Trust Women clinics in Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas said they've had an increase.

"What we saw very immediately after S.B. 8 is we doubled our volume," Kailey Voellinger, clinic director at Trust Women Oklahoma City, told NBC News earlier this month. "We went from seeing about 100 to 150 patients to almost 300 in a month."

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Anti-abortion legislators in Oklahoma said that the influx of patients from Texas led them to enact their own bans.

"A state of emergency exists in Oklahoma," state Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, a Republican, said, according to The Washington Post. "It's sickening. And that's the reason we're making every effort to get our laws changed."

After the bill passed on Thursday, Planned Parenthood and the Tulsa Women's Reproductive Clinic filed lawsuits against SB 1503 and SB 612.

"We are asking the state courts to uphold the State Constitution and apply Oklahoma precedent to block these insidious abortion bans before they take effect," Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the health clinics, said in a statement. "Oklahoma is a critical state for abortion access right now, with many Texans fleeing to Oklahoma for abortion care. These bans would further decimate abortion access across the South."

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