Oklahoma legislators pass Texas-style 6-week abortion ban allowing civil law enforcement – local news 8 2022-04-28 11:14:16

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By Veronica Straqualorsi, CNN

Oklahoma lawmakers Thursday gave final approval to a bill modeled on the controversial Texas abortion law, which would allow citizens to take civil action against abortion providers to enforce the law.

It’s one of a number of bills passed by the Oklahoma legislature this month to restrict abortion rights, and it comes amid a move by Republican-led states to sharply scale back the procedure.

The “Oklahoma Heart Rate Act,” Senate Bill 1503, bans abortion at a time when a doctor can detect early heart activity in a fetus or fetus, which can be as early as six weeks of pregnancy – before many women even know they are pregnant. The procedure provides exceptions for medical emergencies.

The Senate also passed later on Thursday House Bill 4327, similar to SB 1503, which allows citizens to file civil suits against abortion providers. However, House Bill 4327 prohibits abortions at any time during pregnancy, except for medical emergencies or if the pregnancy is the result of rape, sexual assault or incest and report it to law enforcement authorities. HB 4327, which was amended by the Senate and passed by a 35-10 majority, will need House approval before being sent to the Governor.

SB 1503 will also allow private citizens to bring a civil action against a person who performs or abets an abortion, intends to perform an abortion, or knowingly aids or abets an abortion, such as paying for the procedure. Under the bill, the exemption would include at least $10,000 in statutory damages for each abortion the defendant performed or assisted in violation of the law, legal fees, and compensatory damages.

The bill prohibits filing a civil lawsuit against certain individuals, including a woman who has had an abortion or has requested the procedure. The bill also prohibits anyone carrying a woman through rape, sexual assault or incest from filing a civil lawsuit.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, has pledged to sign every abortion-restricting legislation that reaches his office. Once signed, the law will take effect immediately. CNN has reached out to the governor’s office for comment.

Earlier this month, stet I signed a bill Which makes performing an abortion illegal in the state, with an exception only in case of a medical emergency. The law, which will take effect this summer, makes performing or attempting to have an abortion a crime punishable by a maximum fine of $100,000 or a maximum of 10 years in state prison, or both.

Oklahoma Representative Todd Ross, who has defended the bill in the House, previously told CNN that if the near-total ban signed earlier this month is appealed to the US Supreme Court, his bill could still be in effect. Noting that the Supreme Court allowed the Texas law to go into effect.

The 1503rd House of Representatives passed the Republican-majority House of State Thursday by 68 votes to 12. The Republican-led Senate approved the measure last month by 33 to 11.

Abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood and the Women’s Reproductive Clinic in Tulsa, announced later Thursday that they had filed two separate appeals to SB 1503, a counterfeit Texas bill, and SB 612, Almost Complete Abortion Ban Stitt signed them earlier this month, in an effort to stop them.

“We are asking state courts to uphold the state constitution and implement Oklahoma’s precedent to block this malignant abortion ban before it goes into effect,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “Oklahoma is a critical state for abortion access right now, with many Texans fleeing to Oklahoma to obtain abortion care. This ban would undermine abortion access throughout the South.”

Emily Wells, interim president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, told CNN that the so-called heartbeat bill is “concerning in many ways” about a near-total ban in part because it was modeled on a Texas law that states that abortion providers and Advocates struggled to prevent.

Oklahoma is the latest state to pass legislation similar to Texas law, after Idaho last month became the first state to adopt a law similar to that of Texas. Idaho law, however, was temporarily blocked by the state Supreme Court in a lawsuit brought by abortion providers.

This story was updated with additional developments on Thursday.

CNN Wire
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CNN’s Rebecca Reese contributed to this report.

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