Oklahoma Legislature passes bill making it a felony to perform an abortion

By Rick Green, The Oklahoman

Oklahoma would be the first state in the nation to effectively ban abortion under a bill lawmakers approved Thursday and sent to the governor to be signed into law.

Gov. Mary Fallin declined to say what she would do with the measure, which would make it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by at least a year in prison. Also, it calls for revoking the medical license of any doctor who performs the procedure.

Senate Bill 1552, approved 33-12, likely will lead to a court challenge. Its author, Sen. Nathan Dahm, welcomes that, saying he hopes the issue goes to the U.S. Supreme Court and results in the overturning of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.


“Most people know I am for defending rights,” said Dahm, R-Broken Arrow. “Those rights begin at conception. I believe it’s a core function of state government to defend that life from the beginning of conception.”

Dahm said an anti-abortion legal group has agreed to defend any lawsuit over the legislation at no charge. The Oklahoma attorney general’s office is in charge of defending the state from lawsuits.

The bill specifies that abortions can be performed to preserve the life of the mother.

Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, a medical doctor, called the bill “insane” and voted against it.

He predicted it would be invalidated in litigation if it is signed into law.

“It will be declared null and void,” he said.

Jennifer Miller, of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said this measure is the first of its kind and is unconstitutional.


She called on Fallin to veto it, but she noted the conservative governor has signed a series of anti-abortion bills.

“Since Gov. Fallin took office in 2011, she has signed 18 bills restricting access to reproductive health care services, including a Texas-style clinic shutdown law, a ban on the most common method of second trimester abortion, unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion, and a law that forces abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and display and describe the image,” Miller said. “Each of these laws have been blocked by courts; in fact, the Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care in Oklahoma eight times in five years.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue called the bill “reckless and dangerous.”

“This bill puts doctors in the crosshairs for providing women with the option of exercising our fundamental right to decide how and when to start a family,” Hogue said. “And it creates penalties for doctors doing their jobs: performing a safe and legal medical procedure.”

“This obviously unconstitutional bill will never withstand legal scrutiny and is designed to scare doctors and shame women. It is a shameful new low for the anti-choice movement.”

Bill Donohue, president of The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said it makes sense to criminalize abortion in Oklahoma.

“Currently, it is a felony in Oklahoma for non-doctors to perform an abortion, so this bill simply adds doctors to the list,” he said. “Quite frankly, it would be illogical not to do so: It is not the training of the abortionist that is the crux of the matter, it is the procedure, and its aftermath, that counts.”

Michael McNutt, a spokesman for the governor, said Fallin was considering the issue.

“The governor will withhold comment on that bill, as she does on most bills, until she and her staff have had a chance to review it,” he said.

One section of the bill requires the attorney general to determine how much it will cost to defend any constitutional lawsuit arising from the measure. Oklahoma is facing a $1.3 billion revenue shortfall.

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