OKLAHOMA– Oklahoma lawmakers on Thursday gave final approval to a bill inspired by the controversial Texas abortion law, which allows private citizens to file civil suits against abortion providers to enforce the law.
It’s one of several bills passed this month by the Oklahoma legislature to curtail abortion rights and comes amid a move by Republican-led states to dramatically reduce the procedure. .
The Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, Senate Bill 1503, would ban abortions at the time a doctor can detect early heart activity in an embryo or fetus, which can occur as early as the sixth week of pregnancy – even before that many women do not know. they are pregnant. The measure provides exceptions for medical emergencies.
Later Thursday, the state Senate also passed Bill 4327, similar to SB 1503, allowing private citizens to file civil lawsuits against abortion providers. House Bill 4327, however, would ban abortions at any time during pregnancy, except for medical emergencies or if the pregnancy was the result of rape, sexual assault, or incest. and reported to law enforcement. HB 4327, which was amended by the Senate and passed 35 to 10, will need to be approved by the House before being sent to the governor.
SB 1503 would also allow private citizens to bring a civil action against a person who performs or causes an abortion, intends to perform an abortion, or knowingly aids or abets an abortion, such as paying for the procedure. Under the bill, the remedy would include at least $10,000 in statutory damages for each abortion performed or assisted by the defendant in violation of the law, legal fees and compensatory damages.
The bill would bar civil suits against certain people, including the woman who had an abortion or who requested the procedure. The bill would also prohibit a person who has impregnated a woman through rape, sexual assault or incest from bringing a civil action.
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, has pledged to sign all abortion-restricting bills that come to his office. Once signed, the bill would come into effect immediately. CNN has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.
Earlier this month, Stitt signed a bill that makes performing an abortion illegal in the state, with an exception only for medical emergencies. The law, which will take effect this summer, makes performing or attempting to perform an abortion a felony punishable by a maximum fine of $100,000 or up to 10 years in state prison, or of them.
Oklahoma State Rep. Todd Russ, who championed the bill in the House, previously told CNN that if the near-total ban enacted earlier this month comes under an appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, his bill could still stand, noting that the High Court had allowed the Texas law to go into effect.
SB 1503 passed the Republican-majority state House on Thursday in a 68-12 vote. The GOP-led state Senate approved the measure last month by a 33-11 vote.
Abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood and the Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic, announced later Thursday that they had filed two separate challenges against SB 1503, the Texas-mimicking bill, and SB 612, the near-total abortion ban Stitt signed earlier this month, in an attempt to block them.
“We call on the state courts to uphold the state constitution and apply Oklahoma precedent to block these insidious abortion bans before they go into effect,” Nancy Northup said. , president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents the plaintiffs, in a statement. “Oklahoma is currently a critical abortion access state, with many Texans fleeing to Oklahoma for abortion care. These bans would further decimate abortion access in the South.”
Emily Wales, acting president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, told CNN the so-called heartbeat bill is “more concerning in many ways” than the near-total ban, in part because ‘It’s inspired by Texas law that abortion providers and advocates have struggled to block.
Oklahoma is the latest state to approve legislation similar to Texas, after Idaho last month became the first state to pass legislation similar to Texas law. The Idaho law, however, was temporarily blocked by the state Supreme Court in a lawsuit brought by abortion providers.
This story was updated with additional developments on Thursday.
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