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Oklahoma follows in Texas’ footsteps with new abortion ban

What would a post-Roe United States look like? Look no further than Oklahoma, which has now approved two sweeping abortion bans in two months.


It was nearly a year ago when Texas Republicans approved a highly controversial abortion ban, which Republican-appointed justices on the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to take effect. As regular readers know, almost immediately thereafter, many women in the Lone Star State started going to neighboring Oklahoma for reproductive health services.

Those days are now over. Two weeks ago, Oklahoma Republicans made it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Yesterday, as The New York Times reported, GOP lawmakers in the Sooner State passed another abortion ban to complement the other.

The Oklahoma Legislature approved a bill on Thursday prohibiting abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, a ban that could sharply reduce abortion access not only for women in the state but for those who have been crossing its borders to work around increasingly strict anti-abortion laws across the South. The bill is modeled on one that took effect in Texas in September.

For proponents of reproductive rights, the fact that Texas’ model is being embraced elsewhere is highly discouraging. Indeed, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts warned that the Texas measure could serve as “a model for action in other areas,” and that’s precisely what’s happening.

In case anyone needs a refresher, what made Texas’ system so unusual was the extent to which Republican policymakers effectively created a vigilante system: If some random person learns that a Texan had an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy — before many women even know they’re pregnant — he could file suit against the physician who performed the procedure. And the nurse who was in the room. And the friend who drove the woman to the health clinic. And the family member who gave the woman some money to help pay for the visit.

According to the Lone Star State’s abortion ban, a random person, effectively deputized by Texas Republicans, could sue any of these people for $10,000 — plus attorneys’ fees — turning anti-abortion activists into bounty hunters.

Last month, Idaho followed in Texas’ footsteps with a similar, but not identical, six-weeks abortion ban — Idaho’s ban makes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, for example, while Texas’ law does not — and now Oklahoma is joining the ranks.

The new Sooner State bill still needs to receive Gov. Kevin Stitt’s signature, but the Republican is on record saying, “I promised Oklahomans that I would sign every pro-life bill that hits my desk,” which leaves little doubt as to what will happen next.

The implementation timeline is highly relevant: While Oklahoma’s other abortion ban will not take effect until August, the new Texas-style ban will become law immediately after it receives the governor’s signature.

In other words, after the first anti-abortion measure was approved, Oklahomans still had a narrow window in which they could terminate unwanted pregnancies. After Stitt signs this new ban, the window will close.

In theory, these measures are completely at odds with the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade precedent. In practice, the conservative-dominated high court will soon issue a ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which the justices are expected to overturn Roe.