In a First, Bill Passed by Oklahoma Republicans Promises Felony Charges and Prison for Doctors Who Perform Abortions

Friday, May 20, 2016
(photo: Getty Images)




By Erik Eckholm, New York Times


The Oklahoma Legislature on Thursday passed a bill that would effectively ban abortions by subjecting doctors who perform them to felony charges and revoking their medical licenses — the first legislation of its kind.


In a year in which states have tried to outlaw abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy, to ban the main surgical method used in the second trimester and to shut down abortion clinics with onerous regulations, Oklahoma’s bill is the most far-reaching.


The measure, which passed the Republican-dominated Senate by a vote of 33-12, will be presented to Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, who will have five days to sign it, veto it or allow it to take effect without her signature.


If it becomes law, it is certain to face a quick challenge in state or federal court. And because the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that women have a right to obtain abortions until the fetus is viable outside the womb, legal experts say, it will soon be declared unconstitutional.


That has not deterred anti-abortion politicians in a state dominated by conservative Republicans. Some say they welcome the chance to make a strong statement and to engage the issues in court.


“Most people know I am for defending rights,” Sen. Nathan Dahm, the author of the bill and a software developer from Broken Arrow, told The Oklahoman. “Those rights begin at conception.”


Dahm told reporters that he knew the measure would be challenged but expressed hope that the case would lead the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.


Fallin, who has signed several anti-abortion bills that were later blocked by the courts, will not comment on the new bill “until she and her staff have had a chance to review it,” Michael McNutt, her communications director, said in an email.


But some legislators called the measure an ill-considered diversion.


“I’m pro-life and a Roman Catholic, but I don’t think we should waste our time on legislation that someone will declare unconstitutional,” Sen. Ervin Yen, an anesthesiologist from Oklahoma City, and one of a small number of Republicans to oppose the bill, said in an interview.


To Learn More:

Oklahoma Lawmakers Move Bill Requiring Public High School Anti-Abortion Curriculum (Courthouse News Service)

Catholic Business Takes over Hospitals and Orders Affiliated Doctors to Stop Prescribing Birth Control (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

New Oklahoma Law Requires Web Posting of Personal Details of Women Who Have Abortions (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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