March 23 (UPI) — Legislators in Oklahoma have approved a bill that, if passed, would join Texas in having one of the strictest abortion bans in the United States.
The Oklahoma House passed the proposal on Tuesday, which would amount to a near total ban on all abortions. Under the bill, the only time an abortion would be legal would be when the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life.
House Bill 4327 states specifically that a physician “may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman, unless such abortion is performed to save the life of the mother.”
The proposed law allows citizens to sue doctors who perform abortions and file civil suits up to $10,000 against anyone who “performs or induces an abortion in violation of this act.”
Oklahoma’s is very similar to an abortion ban that was enacted in Texas last year. It also allows private citizens to sue doctors and others who aid in an abortion — an enforcement tactic that’s designed to withstand challenges in court. So far, it has been successful as no court challenges have been able to block the highly controversial law.
The Oklahoma bill also criminalizes paying for or being reimbursed for costs of an abortion.
“A defendant against whom an action is brought under this act does not have standing to assert the rights of the woman seeking an abortion as a defense to liability,” unless the U.S. Supreme Court determines that it violates federal law, the bill says.
In other words, the bill says that anyone who’s sued under the law can’t claim that the statute is unconstitutional as a defense.
The Oklahoma Senate is expected to vote on the measure soon and Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, would likely sign it.
The proposed law, as expected, has already drawn heavy criticism from abortion rights advocates.
“After seeing the devastation caused by Texas’ abortion ban, Oklahoma politicians have taken the unconscionable step of imposing an even harsher ban on pregnant people,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a tweet.
“We will continue fighting until every person can get the care we deserve without cruel obstacles designed to take away our dignity and power to control our lives.”
According to Planned Parenthood, abortion clinics in Oklahoma have seen a 2,500% rise in female visitors from Texas since that state passed its ban last year.
Oklahoma and Texas are two of several states that have proposed or enacted strict abortion laws in recent years that are intended to challenge the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe vs. Wade that legalized the practice. The Supreme Court is expected to rule sometime in the coming months in a Mississippi abortion case that experts say could nullify the Roe vs. Wade decision.
The high court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, is expected to issue its ruling in the case before the end of its term in June.