On Thursday, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a bill that would make performing an abortion a felony, and would also make it legal to revoke the medical licenses of any physician who does so. Legislators voted 33-12 to pass the bill. The law would make performing an abortion punishable by up to three years in prison. But is Oklahoma's new bill the most restrictive anti-abortion bill ever? And further, is the bill even constitutional? After all, this would be a statewide criminalization of abortion, not only punishing individuals who seek this service but also punishing anyone who assists in providing the service, which would make it extremely difficult for people seeking abortions to receive the care they deserve. The bill will now move ahead to Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, who will decide whether or not to sign it into law in the state.
Many opponents of the bill, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, have called it unconstitutional, referring to Roe v. Wade. Specifically, in a statement from April, they noted, "women have a constitutional right to decide whether to end or continue a pregnancy and states cannot ban abortion prior to viability." A bill of this sort would take away the rights of all people to seek the reproductive health care they need by criminalizing doctors who offer the procedure.
Oklahoma's bill would be the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the country to date. And that's exactly what anti-abortion groups want. According to BBC, they hope that if passed, the bill could lead to a legal case to overturn Roe v. Wade. Amanda Allen of the Center for Reproductive Rights wrote to Fallin on Thursday, stating that this bill "will be the most extreme abortion law in this country."
Maggie Jo Buchanan, Associate Director of the Women’s Health and Rights Program at the Center for American Progress, also released a statement urging Gov. Fallin against signing the bill:
This bill would have a devastating impact on women and health care providers in the state, especially low-income women and women of color. And while a wealthy few may be able to afford the expense of travel to get safe abortion care outside of Oklahoma, all women deserve access to timely and safe care. I urge Gov. Fallin to veto this bill.
Abortion is one of the safest and most commonly performed gynecological procedures in the United States. Women deserve the autonomy to make the reproductive health decisions that they need to, without the risk of being criminalized for it.