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Republican-controlled Oklahoma House approves near-total abortion ban

The state’s Republican governor, Kevin Stitt, has already promised to sign any anti-abortion legislation that makes it to his desk.

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) — The Republican-controlled Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a near-total ban on abortions Tuesday.

Senate Bill 612 passed in the Republican-controlled House 70-14 with no debate and 16 abstentions. It comes one year after it passed in the Oklahoma Senate. The bill bans the performing of abortions “except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency.”

Violators would face a felony punishable by up to 10 years in state prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

Representative Carol Bush, a Republican representing Tulsa, was the only Republican to vote against the ban. She is not seeking re-election this year.

Republican Governor Kevin Stitt is expected to sign the measure, as he has vowed to sign any anti-abortion bill that reaches his desk. There are six other anti-abortion bills being considered by the Oklahoma Legislature.

SB 612 passed as hundred of people at the Oklahoma Capitol held a “Bans Off Oklahoma” rally in support of abortion rights. Tamya Cox-Toure, the executive directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, told attendees the state faces an “abortion access crisis that poses an immediate threat” to reproductive freedom.

“The only person who should have the power to decide whether you need an abortion is you — no matter where you live, or how much money you make,” Cox-Toure said.

Emily Wales, interim president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said lawmakers “have outdone themselves” attacking abortion rights this legislative session.

“They are more focused on governing our bodies than addressing real crises, like the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic and rising maternal mortality rates,” Wales said.

Nearly half of the abortion patients that Oklahoma providers are currently serving are from Texas, according to the ACLU of Oklahoma. The influx of Texans began last year when the state’s Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 8 into law, which bans abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected at around six weeks of pregnancy. The law allows private citizens to seek up to $10,000 against abortion providers and anyone who “aids and abets” in a procedure.

The passage of SB 612 comes six months after Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong blocked House Bill 1102, another near-total ban on abortion. That measure declared abortion doctors are engaging in “unprofessional conduct” and would face a suspension of their medical license for at least one year.

Judge Truong also blocked HB 2441 at the time, a Texas-style ban that forbids an abortion if there is a detectable heartbeat. She concluded both laws are unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade.

The Oklahoma House also passed Tuesday a measure that urges citizens to fly flags at half-staff on Jan. 22, the date the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe nearly 50 years ago.

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