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Oklahoma Republicans up the ante with yet another abortion ban

Oklahoma Republicans have approved three abortion bans in seven weeks, and their latest is the toughest to defend.


Oklahoma Republicans had already taken a variety of anti-abortion steps, including approving measures that imposed waiting periods, the imposition of medically unnecessary ultrasounds, and prohibitions on health insurance covering abortions. This, of course, was when GOP officials in the state believed they couldn’t impose bans on the procedure under existing law.

But with Republican-appointed justices on the U.S. Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, Oklahoma Republicans haven’t just approved one abortion ban, they’ve approved three.

As regular readers know, the first was signed into law early last month, with Oklahoma Republicans making it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. That, evidently, wasn’t quite enough: Two weeks later, GOP policymakers in the Sooner State passed another abortion ban, blocking the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy.

Yesterday, Oklahoma Republicans kept going, approving their third abortion ban in seven weeks. NBC News reported:

The Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill Thursday that would ban nearly all abortions, the latest and most severe in a string of anti-abortion measures approved in the state in recent months. Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, is expected to sign the measure, HB 4327, which would prohibit abortions after “fertilization” with few exceptions, making it the most restrictive such law in the country.

This new measure is modeled after Texas’ bounty system, which relies on civilians to help legal enforcement of the ban: If random citizens learn of an Oklahoman having an abortion, they can file lawsuits to punish those involved.

As a Washington Post report explained, under the state’s latest ban, “those who could be sued include anyone who ‘performs or induces’ an abortion; anyone who ‘knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion,’ including paying for one; and anyone who even ‘intends to engage’ in either of the two actions above.”

As NBC News’ report added, there are exceptions to save the life of a pregnant woman or to allow abortions if a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest — just so long as that has been reported to law enforcement.

Complicating matters is the possible impact on in-vitro fertilization, commonly known as IVF. Democratic state Rep. Emily Virgin told KOKH News, “Looking at the language, it’s hard to see how it wouldn’t affect in-vitro fertilization because it talks about as soon as the ovum and the sperm meet, and the egg is fertilized, that means that’s a person. That’s what happens with in vitro fertilization, you create embryos.”

To the extent that public attitudes matter, a recent report from the Pew Research Center found that 51 percent of Oklahomans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. A New York Times report on public attitudes pointed in a nearly identical direction.

Or put another way, it’s tough see the state’s Republican policymakers acting in response to broad public demand for sweeping abortion bans.