The Oklahoma state legislature advanced two pro-life bills on Thursday modeled on the Texas Heartbeat Act last year. The state Senate voted in favor of a bill that bans almost all abortion procedures while the state House passed a bill that prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is medically detected.
The House bill also provides private citizens with the power to enforce the prohibition through civil lawsuits, which is also patterned on the Texas law.
Republican Governor Kevin Stitt is expected to sign both bills into law shortly. Stitts said earlier this month that he plans to “outlaw abortion” in the state.
The Senate bill excludes abortions performed in cases of rape, incest, or medical emergency requiring the procedure to save a mother’s life. Like the House bill, it allows private citizens to bring civil actions against abortionists and anyone who “aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.”
The Texas law was upheld this week as the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed challenges against the act. So far, the Supreme Court has decided not to take up an appeal of the dismissal.
Earlier this month, Stitt signed another bill into law that creates new criminal penalties for performing an illegal abortion in the state. That law makes the act a felony that carries a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment.
When he signed that bill into law, Stitt said that he had “promised Oklahomans that I would sign every pro-life bill that hits my desk.”
That law is not set to become effective until later this year and is being challenged in court. Both of the bills passed this week have provisions that allow them to become effective immediately upon being signed by the governor.
Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes CEO Emily Wales issued a statement pledging that the abortion industry giant will “go to court to stop this ban.” She added that the group has been “in the middle of a crisis” since the Texas law was enacted, declaring the pro-life Oklahoma bills to be “unconscionable.”
The Texas Heartbeat Act has led to surge in the number of women traveling to Oklahoma for abortions in the last year. Before the law was passed, around 40 Texas women traveled to Oklahoma for abortions annually. The Oklahoma Department Of Health reported that number has grown to more than 200 per month as of last fall.