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Oklahoma legislature passes Texas-style law banning most abortions



Zelda Caldwell - published on 05/19/22

In recent weeks, Governor Kevin Stitt (R) has signed a flurry of pro-life bills restricting abortion. He is expected to endorse this one, which would be the nation’s strictest.

The Oklahoma Legisature voted for final passage of a bill banning most abortions, from the time of conception, making it the most restrictive abortion legislaton in the nation.

The legislation, House Bill 4327, modeled after the abortion ban now in effect in Texas, makes anyone involved in performing or abetting an abortion, subject to civil liability. Any private citizen can file a suit on behalf of an unborn child and be awarded at least $10,000 in damages per abortion.

The law includes exceptions for the life of the mother, and cases of rape and incest that are reported to authorities. It also includes a provision that states that Plan B morning-after pills or other forms of emergency contraception are not considered abortion under the law.

The bill goes into effect as soon as it is signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt. Two weeks ago Stitt signed the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, which prohibited abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

Stitt, who has vowed to make protecting the unborn a priority in his state, has signed a flurry of laws restricting abortion in recent weeks.

Prior to the passage of the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, he signed legislation that would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. That legislation is to go into effect in August, after the Supreme Court’s term ends, and a ruling on Roe v Wade has been made.

While several U.S. states have passed “heartbeat” laws restricting abortion early in the gestation of the fetus, they have been blocked by court challenges. The adoption of the Texas-style law is seen as a way to avoid that fate. The laws authorize private citizens to bring civil suits against those who perform or help women procure abortions.

As John Burger reported for Aleteia, O. Carter Snead, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, the strategy used in Texas is a way to preempt court challenges.

“The law authorizes only private citizens to bring civil suit in Texas state court against those who perform, aid and abet abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected,” Snead said. “Women seeking abortions are immune from suit, and there is an exception for medical emergencies.

“The Texas strategy was ingenious in that it evaded the usual pre-enforcement injunction by a federal court, which only has the constitutional power to act when the parties before them are involved in a real dispute,” Snead continued. “Because neither the state officials nor the private citizen sued in the case were involved in the enforcement of the law, the Supreme Court lacked the power to intervene.”

One of the co-authors of the Oklahoma legislation, Republican Rep. Wendi Stearman of Collinsville, Oklahoma, said in a news release that the civil liability provision was added to strengthen previously passed legislation.

“It is my sincere hope that, in addition to the criminal bill passed this session, this civil liability bill will provide strong, additional protection of the life of unborn children in Oklahoma,” Stearman said.

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