Oklahoma House Sends Governor Texas-Style Abortion Ban | Health and fitness

By SEAN MURPHY – Associated Press Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma House gave final approval Thursday to a Texas-style abortion ban that bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

The bill passed by the GOP-led House without discussion or debate is now heading to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign it within days. The assault on abortion rights is one of many culture war issues that conservatives in GOP-led states have embraced, like the restriction of LGBTQ rights, motivating the party’s base during an election year.

A coalition of Oklahoma abortion providers and abortion rights advocates immediately filed separate legal challenges to both the Texas-style ban and a bill in state court. separate that Stitt signed earlier this month to make abortion a crime. Legal experts say it is likely both measures could be temporarily halted before taking effect.

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House members also voted on Thursday to adopt new language prohibiting transgender students from using school restrooms that match their gender identity and requiring parental notification before any classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“They’re all concerned about their election coming up and making sure they have something they can talk about on a postcard,” said Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Midwest City.

The abortion bill, dubbed the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, bans the procedure once heart activity can be detected in an embryo, which experts say is about six weeks into the pregnancy. A similar bill approved in Texas last year has led to a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions performed there, with many women traveling to Oklahoma and other surrounding states for the procedure.

Like the Texas law, the Oklahoma bill would allow private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone helping a woman have an abortion for up to $10,000. After the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the mechanism to continue, other Republican-led states sought to copy Texas’ ban. Idaho’s governor signed the first copycat measure in March, though it was temporarily blocked by the state Supreme Court.

Although Stitt already signed a bill this year to make abortion a criminal offense in Oklahoma, the measure is not expected to go into effect until this summer. But the ban approved by the House in a 68-12 vote on Thursday has an “emergency” provision that allows it to take effect immediately after it is signed by the governor.

Abortion providers say he will immediately end most abortions in Oklahoma unless a court intervenes.

“The Oklahoma Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the state legislature’s extreme attempts to restrict abortion are unconstitutional, and these bans are among the most extreme to date,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a press release.

A separate bill that uses the Texas-style enforcement mechanism to ban all abortions, not just after heart activity is detected, passed the Senate on Thursday and is heading to the House for consideration. The bills are among more than half a dozen anti-abortion measures introduced in the Legislative Assembly this year.

“We are more concerned at this point about these Texas-style bans because they have, at least recently, been able to continue and remain in effect,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates two abortion services. clinics in Oklahoma. “We intend to challenge them if they are passed, but due to the provisions of the emergency clause there would be at least a period of time during which we could not provide care.”

Before the Texas ban went into effect last year, about 40 Texas women had abortions each month in Oklahoma, according to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. That number rose to 222 Texas women in September and 243 in October, the agency reported.

“We serve as many Texans as Oklahomans right now, in some cases more Texans than Oklahomans,” Wales said.

Tony Lauinger, president of Oklahomans for Life and a longtime advocate for anti-abortion in the state, said he was optimistic the measure would be considered constitutional.

“It’s identical to the bill that was signed into law by the Texas Legislature last year, and that bill was passed by the United States Supreme Court,” Lauinger said. “We hope this bill will save the lives of more unborn children here in Oklahoma as well.”

This story has been corrected to indicate that the bill targets the heart activity of the embryo and not the fetus.

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