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Under a new Oklahoma law, abortion providers could face a decade in prison

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Sean Murphy
/
AP
Emily Wales, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, speaks to a group of abortion rights advocates outside the Oklahoma Capitol in Oklahoma City, on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that would make performing an abortion a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The House voted along party lines to pass Senate Bill 612, sending it to the governor’s desk. The measure made its way out of the Senate and out of committee in the House before stalling out at the end of the legislative session. All it took to send it to the governor’s desk this year was Tuesday’s House floor vote.

The vote took place as abortion rights activists held a rally just outside the Capitol. The demonstration was intended to protest the slew of other abortion bills voted on this year, including one that emulates Texas’ abortion restrictions. Tamya Cox-Touré is the executive director of ACLU Oklahoma, one of the many organizations that contributed to the demonstration. She said House leaders chose to give the bill a floor hearing on Tuesday for a reason.

“They heard it because they knew we were going to be here, whether it was one of us or a thousand of us,” she said from a lectern outside the building.

This isn’t the first time Oklahoma lawmakers have attempted to criminalize abortion procedures. Some have attempted to make undergoing the procedure a crime, but those bills haven’t been as successful as other policies. The Legislature passed a bill similar to Senate Bill 612 back in 2016. It also sought to prosecute medical providers who carried out the procedure. Additionally, it would have revoked doctors’ medical licenses for carrying them out. Like Senate Bill 612, it made an exception to protect the life of the mother. Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed the measure, citing concerns that the language about medical risks to mothers was too vague.

Gov. Kevin Stitt hasn’t released a public statement about this year’s bill, but he has said in the past he will sign all anti-abortion legislation the Legislature sends him.

Oklahoma and other Texas border states have already seen a major influx of patients seeking abortions, and providers say that lack of access will only worsen if Oklahoma’s restrictions go into effect.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Catherine Sweeney grew up in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and attended Oklahoma State University. She has covered local, state and federal government for outlets in Oklahoma, Colorado and Washington, D.C.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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