Oklahoma House Passes Bill Banning Abortion at "Fertilization"

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Oklahoma has joined Texas and Mississippi as lawmakers passed a bill on May 19 prohibiting abortions from the moment of "fertilization" at a 73-to-16 vote by the Oklahoma House, placing a ban on almost all abortions.

The southwestern state had served as a refuge for Texans who sought safe abortion services after SB8 was passed in September 2021, a bill that prohibits women from getting an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected at roughly six weeks of pregnancy.

Under the bill, the term "fertilization" is defined as the moment sperm meets the egg. Under the bill, the use of emergency contraception such as Plan B is allowed, however, medical abortions using pills is prohibited.

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Additionally, the bill exempts the definition of abortion or any procedure to "save the life or preserve the health of the unborn child," or to "remove a dead unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion" or to remove an ectopic pregnancy, where the fetus grows outside the uterus.

Exceptions will also be made in cases where abortion is necessary to "save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency," or the pregnancy results from sexual assault, rape or incest that has been reported.

If Oklahoma's bill is signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt, it would become the strictest ban on abortion in the country, imposing more restrictions for people seeking services that include travel for thousands of miles outside of the state to receive care.

Stitt stated he wants Oklahoma to be the "most pro-life state" in the country on Twitter, sharing his decision to solidify the legislation.

"I am proud to sign SB 1503, the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act into law," he said. "I want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country because I represent all four million Oklahomans who overwhelmingly want to protect the unborn."

Two weeks ago, Stitt had signed SB 1503, the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act into law, which imposed prohibitions on abortions for pregnancies past six weeks.

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The decision comes at a time when conservatives across the United States continue to push for the elimination of abortion access across the country. On May 2, a leaked brief from the Supreme Court caused an uproar as it suggested the elimination of Roe v. Wade.

"We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the draft, obtained by POLITICO. "The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision."

Similar to SB8, the Oklahoma bill would allow civilians to file lawsuits against people performing or facilitating access to abortion care. Anyone who "performs or induces" an abortion, "knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion," which includes payment of one and "intends to engage" in either of the actions stipulated are at risk.

"There is no higher principle than the protection of innocent life," Oklahoma state Rep. Jim Olsen (R) said during floor debate. "Innocent, unborn life. There can be no higher cause that we as a body can address."