(Representative Image) Photograph:( Twitter )
The legislation which is one of several anti-abortion measures advanced by the state's Republican-controlled legislature this year will take effect this summer
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt on Tuesday signed a bill that makes it illegal to perform an abortion in the state except in medical emergencies, penalising those who do with up to $100,000 in fines and 10 years in prison.
The legislation, which is one of several anti-abortion measures advanced by the state's Republican-controlled legislature this year, will take effect this summer unless it is blocked in court.
"The fact that the governor of Oklahoma passed a criminal ban on all abortion care that would take effect this summer is not surprising, but that doesn't mean we're not shocked and aghast. I mean, the implications for people in Oklahoma are devastating,” said Talcott Camp, Chief Legal and Strategy Officer of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), the professional association of abortion providers.
If it takes effect, the ban will widen a swath of the country where there is little to no legal abortion access. Oklahoma has become a frequent destination for Texas women seeking abortions since the larger neighboring state in September banned abortions for pregnancies from about six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.
Planned Parenthood abortion providers in Oklahoma saw a nearly 2,500 per cent increase in Texas patients in the months after the Texas law took effect compared to the same period in 2020, the organization said.
Camp said the increase in demand and shortage of available appointments meant women were waiting longer to have an abortion.
“There is one thing that increases the risks associated with abortion, and that's pushing it later,” she said. “So one thing politicians are doing here, one of the implications for folks in Oklahoma and Texas and the region is that they're getting pushed later into pregnancy, which is a terrible idea."
In the past few months, Republican-led states like Oklahoma have been quickly passing ever-stricter abortion bans with the anticipation that an impending US Supreme Court decision could help the bans withstand legal challenges.
The Supreme Court is due to rule by the end of June on a case involving a Republican-backed Mississippi law that gives its conservative majority a chance to undermine or even repeal the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalised abortion nationwide.