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Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. What it means for Oklahoma

Supreme Court Abortion
Steve Helber
/
AP
A celebration outside the Supreme Court, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Washington. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years — a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court's landmark abortion cases.

The U.S. Supreme Court effectively overturned Roe v. Wade Friday morning. That will have a major impact on abortion access across the country, but the law won’t change much in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma already banned abortion this year, passing several contradictory bills to do so. Two of them used Texas-style enforcement mechanisms. Here’s what that means: residents can file expensive civil lawsuits against anyone who performs or helps someone get an abortion. Those are expected to fare better in legal challenges than other kinds of laws, such as the one passed this year that makes performing an abortion a felony.

The decision will have an impact on Oklahomans seeking abortions out of state. Thirteen states have "trigger laws" on the books, meaning that after the Supreme Court overturns Roe, abortion is immediately illegal. Those include some of Oklahoma’s neighbors, including Arkansas, as well as most of the South.

Oklahoma’s top candidates for governor weigh in on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision

Minutes after the Court released its decision on Dobbs v. Jackson, effectively ending the constitutional right to an abortion, the candidates posted their comments on social media.

The incumbent, Gov. Kevin Stitt, predictably lauded the decision. He has, on several occasions, said he aims to make Oklahoma the most pro-life state in the union. He says abortion access is a state’s rights issue and touted his track record of signing all legislation limiting abortion that comes to his desk.

Joy Hofmeister is the current superintendent of schools, who was elected as a Republican, and running for governor as a Democrat. She says the decision takes agency away from women and their doctors. In a fundraising email released shortly after, she said she is personally pro-life.

Indigenous women react to the overturning of Roe v. Wade

Native American women experience sexual violence more than twice as often as white women, and at least some women are considering what their options are in a post-Roe world.

According to a National Institute of Justice study, a third of Native women have been raped.

Blu Cornell, 21, is a Choctaw citizen living in Oklahoma City. She is thinking about what she would do with an unwanted pregnancy.

"We would have to travel out of state somewhere. It would mean a lot of difficulties for me and it is incredibly disheartening that it has come to this," Cornell said.

Blu's mom, Sarah Adams Cornell, thinks that more needs to be done to protect women like her daughter.

"We would love to see our tribal nations step up to offer access to fill in the gap."

Indian Health Service prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions, but at least some of the policies for IHS are confusing and conflict. OPMX has had a public records request out for more than two years seeking clarification on these policies.

Reaction from Oklahoma officials

SEN. JIM INHOFE (R-Okla.):

"I am overjoyed to hear that the Supreme Court has announced its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade today. For almost 50 years, our nation has wrongly operated under the tragic belief that there is a constitutional “right” to end the lives of those who cannot speak for themselves. The Court has now rightfully declared that Roe was wrong from the start, and we can begin to chart a new course on the journey to protect life. During my time in Congress, I have gladly fought to give a voice to the voiceless and I will continue the fight during the remainder of my tenure in the Senate."

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-Okla.):

"Today is a historic day for our nation and for life. After praying, speaking and challenging our nation for years to see the value of every child, I am overwhelmed with joy for our nation and for the lives of unborn children who will have a chance to grow up because of the Supreme Court’s action and the stand of millions of Americans for life. Oklahoma is leading the way to immediately protect each child. We will continue to help support and protect mothers and children while encouraging fatherhood and family involvement for all children."

REP. KEVIN HERN (R-Okla.):

"Every child deserves the right to life. It’s our sacred responsibility not only to defend this right but ensure that mothers and children are provided with the resources they need. It’s been 50 years since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, resulting in the murders of millions of children. Today, the Supreme Court correctly reversed this unconstitutional decision and returned the question to the states. I am proud to support life at every stage and applaud the Supreme Court for their thoughtful and attentive consideration of this important case in the face of unprecedented threats of violence and intimidation against the Court."

REP. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-Okla.):

"The Scales of Justice have weighed in favor of life. This is a historic day in our country. The sanctity of every life has prevailed and the unalienable rights prescribed by our forefathers have been restored. I am grateful for the system of checks and balances that allows for judicial review of prior decisions. And I am grateful as well for the affirmation of States' rights allowing states live Oklahoma to elevate life."

REP. FRANK LUCAS (R-Okla.):

"Oklahoma- along with a number of other states- has made it abundantly clear that life is a miracle and above all else should be protected at its earliest stages. Throughout my time in Congress, the safeguarding of the fundamental right to life has been one of my highest priorities- and I will continue to support pro-life legislation and efforts in the years to come.

"Today’s ruling rightfully affirms the right to legislate abortion belongs to individual states. As our Founding Fathers advocated through the ideals of federalism, and as is ensured by the 10th Amendment, powers not delegated to the Federal government by the U.S. Constitution shall be reserved to the States or the People. While states like New York and California enact irreprehensible (sic) abortion policies, the Supreme Court’s opinion confirms that the power to protecting life is in the hands of elected individuals."

REP. STEPHANIE BICE (R-Okla.):

"My constituents in Oklahoma overwhelmingly support pro-life protections. I am pleased that the Supreme Court has reversed the Roe v. Wade opinion, putting the power back into the hands of state legislatures and the electorate rather than non-elected Justices. This decision reverses the radical abortion policies of our country, which mirror countries like North Korea and China. In Congress, I will continue to fight for unborn babies and advocate for policies that support moms who wish to give their child the gift of life through adoption."

REP. TOM COLE (R-Okla.):

"The Supreme Court’s highly anticipated opinion gives America’s 50 separate and unique states and their voters the authority to determine their own policies concerning abortion, rather than unelected judges and bureaucrats. Indeed, since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, it was immediately controversial and quickly became an outdated decision due to rapid advancements in medicine and science. As a proud defender of unborn life throughout my entire career, both in Congress and in the Oklahoma State Legislature, I am pleased that voters will now have a voice on this important issue."

OKLAHOMA SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE GREG TREAT (R-Oklahoma City):

"Today is a solemn day and today is an overwhelming joyous day – solemn as we remember the 63 million lives terminated and joyous because of answered prayers. Those of us in the pro-life movement have long dreamt of this day, and we have been ridiculed for believing the day would ever come. The work, the prayers, the advocacy that countless dedicated men and women have done since the egregious decision was handed down on January 22, 1973, has come to fruition. Praise God!

“Oklahomans overwhelmingly value life. As a state we are extremely well positioned to be able to protect life from its beginning to its natural end. We have enacted laws that anticipated this day and now Oklahoma can fully protect life.”

OKLAHOMA HOUSE SPEAKER CHARLES McCALL (R-Atoka):

"Decades of steadfast prayer and unwavering legislative efforts to protect the lives of the unborn have finally prevailed. Overturning Roe v. Wade justifies the long battle by Oklahoma House Republicans and pro-life allies nationwide to return this matter to the duly elected representatives of state legislatures to decide.

"With Roe overturned and Oklahoma’s several proactive, pro-life policies already in immediate effect, the stage is set for Oklahoma to be America’s most pro-life state.

"For close to 50 years, the silent cries of the millions who lost their lives before even having a chance to live have been heard through the voices of those of us fighting for their rights. The pro-life movement won, securing those yet unborn the future and promise that comes with being born in the United States of America."

OKLAHOMA HOUSE MINORITY LEADER EMILY VIRGIN (D-Norman) & MINORITY CAUCUS CHAIR CYNDI MUNSON (D-Oklahoma City), JOINT STATEMENT:

"Today, the sky is dark. There is no way to sugarcoat that women in America, especially in states like Oklahoma, have fewer rights now than they did when they woke up this morning.

“We know that Oklahoma’s restrictive abortion laws are not popular and that most Oklahomans believe this fundamental truth: abortion is health care. Yet legislative Republicans continue to propose and pass the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, which will result in women and pregnant people dying because they cannot access the health care they need.

“Unfortunately, many Oklahomans understandably thought this day would never come. As extreme rhetoric stoked a small portion of the population that sought to strip away reproductive rights, too many were complacent because of Roe’s protections. We have and will continue to stand up for the rights of Oklahoma women to make their own private and personal health care decisions.

“If any good is to come out of today’s ruling, let it be our action. The sky is dark today but through our demand and dedication to change, we can build a much brighter future.”

OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN O'CONNOR (R):

"After almost 50 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has wiped one of the most horrifying opinions in American history from the books. It has courageously done so in the face of intimidation, leaks, violence, and even an assassination attempt. Roe not only took away over 60 million lives, it also barred Oklahomans and all other Americans from protecting our unborn children. We should help every woman facing a crisis pregnancy, but not at the cost of the innocent child’s life. This is truly a day for celebration and thanksgiving."

Protests around the state

About 50 protesters gathered outside the Cleveland County Office Building in Norman to demand District Attorney Greg Mashburn answer their questions about how he plans to enforce the state's five conflicting abortion laws in light of the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade.

Among the protestors was Kate Bierman, a former city councilwoman and candidate for Oklahoma House District 44. She and a few other protesters attempted to speak with DA Mashburn, but the office lobby was closed down at least 15 minutes before expected, which Bierman said was "a pretty strong statement."

Protesters outside the Cleveland County Courthouse
Hannah France
/
OPMX
Protesters outside the Cleveland County Courthouse

Hours after the Roe v Wade decision was overturned by the Supreme Court last Friday - Oklahomans met at Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City. OPMX’s Kateleigh Mills reports the people-packed event took a moment to grieve the high court’s decision and offered a call to action for those who disagreed with it.

Speakers in attendance included ACLU Executive Director Tamya Cox-Touré, who is a leading abortion policy expert in Oklahoma. She says she’s been working in anticipation of the Roe v Wade decision.

“And I’ve been doing this work for 15 plus years. Sometimes being the only person at the capitol. I’m the person who people come to - and I don’t have the answers for you. I don’t know what comes next.” 

Other speakers at the event included candidate for U.S. Senate and former Congresswoman Kendra Horn.

“This is a long-haul. And we have to know that. We have seen progress, we see it in some of the things that have happened - we also have lost some of that - but it doesn’t mean we should give up.” 

The event ended peacefully with a call to action to start volunteering for organizations and campaigns and also emphasized the importance of voting.

On Sunday, hundreds of Oklahomans gathered outside of the state Capitol to protest.

Several speakers were candidates for public office, and they advocated for voting as a means to push back against restrictions on abortion.

Others speakers said Oklahomans need to take action in addition to voting, such as assisting anyone seeking an abortion. Sarah Adams-Cornell, an Indigenous activist in Oklahoma City, said that could mean defying laws like House Bill 4327, which allows anyone who performs an abortion — or who quote “aids and abets” someone getting one — to be sued for up to $10,000. Some lawmakers voiced support for criminalizing aiding and abetting, as well.

Abound 300 people rallied outside the Tulsa County courthouse on Friday to voice their support for abortion access.

One of those people was Heather Hutto. She had an abortion last year because of a rare medical condition called Hemiplegic Migraine.

"Pregnancy and my body are not sympatico. I have a health condition that basically if I became pregnant would keep me at home in bed the rest of my life," she said.

This post will be updated.

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.
Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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.
Hannah France started her work in public radio at KBIA while studying journalism at the University of Missouri. While there, she helped develop and produce a weekly community call-in show, for which she and her colleagues won a Gracie Award. Hannah takes interest in a wide variety of news topics, which serves her well as a reporter and producer for KGOU.
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