A measure that Oklahoma state legislators approved Thursday would make abortion a felony for physicians, with potential penalties that include removal of their medical license and a maximum prison sentence of three years.
The state House approved the measure in April with a vote of 69-15 and sent it to the Senate, which passed it today with a vote of 33-12. Senate Bill 1552 now goes to Gov. Mary Fallin to sign or veto, although it will automatically become law should Fallin do neither, Politico reported.
Previous state laws forbid the practice of abortion by non-licensed practitioners. Under the proposed law, abortion would fall within the state’s definition of “unprofessional conduct” for physicians, making the procedure illegal to practice.
Abortions that would “preserve the life of the mother” or to remove a miscarriage are exempt. There is no exemption for cases of rape or incest, and any physician who practices abortion would be blocked from obtaining or renewing their medical license, according to the bill.
Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, who co-authored the bill, said that state government is responsible for protecting life in the state. “Since I believe life begins at conception, it should be protected, and I believe it’s a core function of state government to defend that life from the beginning of conception,” Dahm said.
Critics of the bill have called it unconstitutional and a violation of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, that legalized abortion in the country. Sen. Ervin Yen, a Republican and the Oklahoma state Senate’s only physician, said the bill was “insane.”
The bill joins hundreds of other state measures restricting abortion that have been proposed across the country since the beginning of 2016. Overall, U.S. states introduced 411 abortion-restricting bills between January and mid-April and enacted 21 of those measures, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Last month, Fallin signed a bill that banned intact dilation and evacuation, a method used in second-trimester abortions, making Oklahoma the second state to outlaw the procedure. Kansas had previously banned the same method last year.