(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed an abortion bill Tuesday that is modeled after a controversial Texas law.
The bill, formally known as S.B. 1503, creates the “Oklahoma Heartbeat Act,” which bans abortions after cardiac activity or a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which typically occurs around six weeks — before a woman often knows she is pregnant.
There are exceptions when the mother’s life is danger but not for rape or incest.
The bill also allows any private citizen to sue someone who performs an abortion, intends to perform an abortion, or helps a woman get an abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. These citizens could be awarded at least $10,000 for every abortion performed.
A civil lawsuit, however, cannot be brought against a woman who receives an abortion. Additionally, someone who impregnated a woman through rape or incest would not be allowed to sue.
“I am proud to sign SB 1503, the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act into law,” Stitt tweeted Tuesday after signing the bill. “I want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country because I represent all four million Oklahomans who overwhelmingly want to protect the unborn.”
Oklahoma’s bill is the second copycat of the Texas legislation after Idaho passed the first bill in March.
Because of the bill’s emergency clause, it goes into immediate effect after being signed by the governor.
A few weeks ago, Stitt signed another abortion bill that would make it a felony to perform abortions except when the mother’s life is in danger.
“We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country,” Stitt said at the time. “We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma.”
This bill doesn’t go into effect until the summer and will likely be facing legal challenges.
“This cruel six-week ban allows Oklahomans to be stripped of their constitutional right to make private medical decisions,” Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement Tuesday night. “Everyone deserves comprehensive care in their communities, full stop — and we are hopeful that we will soon be able to block this law in court.”
Planned Parenthood and others are seeking to block the law in the courts, but Tuesday the Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to immediately block the ban.
“As a result, until the Court makes a further determination, most abortion in Oklahoma is banned, cutting off access for the thousands of people who seek abortion care in Oklahoma each year,” Planned Parenthood said in a statement.
Abortion rights advocates said this is why Republicans in Oklahoma have been passing several abortion bills — in the hopes that one sticks.
Several groups, including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, have already filed a joint lawsuit to block S.B. 1503.
“These abortion bans will push abortion access out of reach for many communities who already face often insurmountable barriers to health care, including Black and brown communities, low-income communities, and people who live in rural areas,” Tamya Cox-Touré, co-chair of Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, said in a statement. “These are the same communities who are most impacted by the maternal health crisis occurring in our country and in our state. The lawmakers who passed these bans do not care about access to healthcare, and we can’t allow this law to take effect.”
The signing comes as several Republican-led states — including Arizona, Kentucky and Wyoming — have been passing abortion legislation ahead of a Supreme Court decision that could decide the future of Roe v. Wade.
The court is expected to hand down a decision about a 15-week ban in Mississippi in June. If the ban is declared constitutional, it could lead to Roe v. Wade being overturned or severely gutted.
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