A new bill punishing physicians who perform abortions is now law in Oklahoma.
Governor Kevin Stitt sign Senate Bill 612 on April 12. The measure makes it a felony to perform an abortion except to save the life of the mother. Anyone who performs an abortion could face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The law goes into effect in 90 days.
“We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma,” Stitt said during a signing ceremony. “I promised Oklahomans that I would sign every pro-life bill that hits my desk, and that’s what we’re doing here today.”
Women who seek or receive an abortion are not subject to criminal charges under the bill.
State Senator Nathan Dahm, who is running for the United States Senate, is SB 612’s primary author. He said in a statement that the law “defends life from conception, will stop the murder of the unborn and end the massacre that has been taking place in our state for decades through abortion.”
“Senate Bill 612 is the strongest pro-life legislation in the country right now, which effectively eliminates abortion in Oklahoma,” Dahm said. “The Declaration of Independence states that our rights come from our creator, and that among those rights is the right to life, and that governments are instituted to secure those rights. It is far past time that the government of the state of Oklahoma defend the right to life.”
“Those of us in elected office have a responsibility to defend the rights of the people,” the senator added. “No one should be able to intentionally take an innocent life.”
Arkansas and Alabama have both passed laws similar to SB 612 in the last three years which were subsequently prevented from being enforced by the courts.
Governor Stitt acknowledged that the law will most likely face an immediate challenge.
“As statehouses across the country rush to pass new abortion restrictions ahead of a consequential Supreme Court ruling this summer, Oklahoma lawmakers are trying to restrict abortion access by any and all means necessary,” reports 19th News.
Abortion providers have predicted the law will increase the distance people seeking an abortion will travel to undergo the procedure, increasing clinics’ caseload and waiting times.
“Unless blocked by the courts, [SB 612] would be just as destructive for Oklahomans and their neighbors, since it will eliminate access and force thousands of patients to turn elsewhere for care,” Planned Parenthood said in a press release following the signing ceremony. “Oklahoma abortion providers, represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights, have pledged to challenge any ban that is signed into law in Oklahoma this session. Just last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court blocked five anti-abortion laws — including a near-total abortion ban — that would have stopped patients throughout the state from getting care.”
Emily Wales, the interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said it is “a very dark day in Oklahoma” and vowed on behalf of her organization to fight against the law.