OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma House gave final approval on Thursday to a Texas-style abortion ban that prohibits the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
The bill approved by the GOP-led House now heads to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign it within days. The assault on abortion rights is one of several culture-war issues conservatives in GOP-led states have embraced, like restricting LGBTQ rights, that drive the party’s base in an election year.
Dubbed the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, the bill prohibits abortions once cardiac activity can be detected in the fetus, which experts say is roughly six weeks into a pregnancy. A similar bill approved in Texas last year led to a dramatic reduction in the number of abortions performed in that state, sending many women seeking the procedure to Oklahoma and other surrounding states.
Although Stitt already signed a bill earlier this year to make performing an abortion a felony crime in Oklahoma, that measure is not set to take effect until later in the summer and might not withstand a legal challenge.
Because the measure approved Thursday has an “emergency” provision, it takes effect immediately after the governor signs it, and abortion providers say will immediately end most abortions in Oklahoma.
“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 at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which operates two abortion clinics in Oklahoma. “We do intend to challenge those if they’re passed, but because of the emergency clause provisions, there would be at least some period of time when we could not offer care.”
Like Texas, the bill allows private citizens to sue abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion for up to $10,000, a mechanism that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed to remain in place. Texas’ new law has led to a huge increase in the number of women from Texas seeking abortions in Oklahoma.
“We’re serving as many Texans as Oklahomans right now, in some cases more Texans than Oklahomans,” Wales said.