Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma passes near-total ban on abortions

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma State Legislature passed a bill Thursday that abortion advocates say that once signed, will become the most restrictive ban yet in the nation.

In a 73-16 vote, state lawmakers passed House Bill 4327, which would ban all abortions in the state and would be enforced by lawsuits from private citizens against abortion providers, which can include the clinic itself where the abortion was provided, as well as the doctors and staff there. The bill has exceptions for rape and incest, but those incidents must be reported to law enforcement. The bill also makes an exception to save the life of the mother.

READ MORE: While the nation grapples with post-Roe possibilities, Oklahoma is already living it, advocates say

The bill comes weeks after a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court outlined the potential reversal of Roe v. Wade, allowing states to decide whether to ban abortion. Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has pledged to sign all anti-abortion measures, is expected to approve the bill. Once signed, the ban will go into effect immediately.

Ahead of Thursday’s vote on the measure, Rep. Cyndi Munson, a Democrat from Oklahoma City, argued the bill was going to result in the deaths of women.

“If we pass this, women are going to die,” Munson said. “I know my Republican colleagues aren’t going to vote ‘no’ on an abortion ban, but I recommend you walk and abstain instead of killing constituents or forcing girls to carry their rapist’s child.”

On Thursday, Oklahoma lawmakers debated House Bill 4327, which would ban nearly all abortions. The measure passed, in a 73-16 vote, and will now go to the governor’s desk to sign. Video by PBS NewsHour

Rep. Wendi Stearman, a Republican from Collinsville and co-sponsor of the bill, said it’s her hope that the bill will provide more protections for “unborn children” in Oklahoma.

“We used to debate on abortion bills whether the fetus is a person,” Stearman said. “Now we’re debating on whether the child will have a hard life. Based on that argument, we should offer services to kill children until they’re 18.”

Earlier this month, Stitt signed a ban on abortions past six weeks of pregnancy, which left clinics in Oklahoma scrambling to reschedule patients at clinics in other states.

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Nancy Northup, president and CEO with the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the group will be fighting this latest ban in state court.

“Politicians in Oklahoma have been working towards this moment for decades,” she said in a statement following Thursday’s vote.

“Under [House Bill 4327], people will be forced to travel hundreds of miles for an abortion, and those who cannot afford to travel will be forced to give birth against their will or attempt to end their pregnancies on their own. This is the cruel reality that politicians are creating for their own residents.”

Emily Wales, interim CEO and president for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said the two clinics in Oklahoma that provided abortions have stopped out of fear of potential litigation and are now answering calls from confused patients about what is legal in Oklahoma.

“It’s a devastating moment,” Wales said at a news conference after the vote. “People are asking if Roe is still the law of the land and it is, but it has never been more in danger.”

Oklahomans “feel that their decisions about their health care are being criminalized,” she added.