Oklahoma Legislature passes bill prohibiting abortion after fertilization

Pro-choice and anti-abortion activists at a protest.
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Oklahoma Legislature on Thursday passed a bill that bans almost all abortions from the moment of fertilization and allows individuals to sue providers and anyone who "aids or abets" an abortion.

If signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who has promised to approve any anti-abortion law that comes to his desk, this would be the strictest abortion law in the United States.

The bill passed the Oklahoma House 73-16, with state Rep. Jim Olsen (R) declaring that "there can be nothing higher or more critical than the defense of innocent, unborn life." Several Democratic lawmakers urged their Republican colleagues to stop passing anti-abortion laws and focus instead on getting more money to family planning services and to help lift young people out of poverty.

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"Legislation like this, on the surface, says that we are going to end abortion in our state," state Rep. Trish Ranson (D) said. "The manner in which it chooses to do so is punitive, it's speculative, and it draws the worst of us together."

The bill makes an exception for rape and incest if the crimes have been reported to police. On the House floor, state Rep. Cyndi Munson (D) said many girls and women are too afraid to report rape or incest, and she asked the measure's sponsor, state Rep. Wendi Stearman (R), to "explain to me why you're OK with a person carrying on a pregnancy after they have been raped or there has been instances of incest? You understand what incest is, correct? You are OK with that?" Stearman responded, "I am OK with preserving the life of the child. The child was not part of that decision."

Andrea Gallegos, executive administrator at the Tulsa Women's Clinic, told The New York Times this bill would make it impossible to perform abortions anywhere in Oklahoma. "These laws don't stop abortion," she said. "Women will still seek and get abortions. We're just forcing the citizens of this country to have to flee their own state to access health care. It's pretty awful."

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