Another legislative session reproductive justice supporters can celebrate. For over a decade, the Oklahoma Legislature has had at least one extreme abortion restriction pass that ultimately has resulted in a costly lawsuit. But, for the second year in a row, no extreme anti-abortion bill restricting access to services will become law. The hope is that this may be the beginning of a very much-needed trend. Oklahoma taxpayers are exhausted from footing the bill for costly litigation and Oklahomans are now more than ever demanding legislators focus on bills that move Oklahoma forward.
But, Oklahoma politics isn’t for the faint of heart. This legislative session was chalk full of political gamesmanship and constitutional gymnastics that was displayed throughout the four months. Due to term limits, the Oklahoma Legislature experienced its largest freshman class in state history. Out of the 149 member Legislature, over 30 were new to the capitol. This made it difficult to determine how many friendly legislators we could count on.
Prior to session, hostile legislators filed 11 anti-abortion bills. These bills included requiring partner’s permission to access abortion, consider abortion as first degree murder; collection of DNA samples for minors; medically unnecessary health center inspections; abortion ban based on genetic anomalies; onerous sign posting laws in health centers; requiring a death certificate for every abortion; automatic suspension of medical license for abortion providers, and making it more difficult for minors to obtain a safe, legal abortion.
The first House Public Health committee was an indicator of how chaotic the session would turn out to be. HB 1549, a bill that would ban abortion based on genetic anomaly failed in committee when three freshman Republican committee members voted against the measure. This was the first time in over a decade that an anti-abortion bill failed. Unfortunately, the same bill was resurrected and ultimately passed both committee and the House.
The Oklahoma Legislature also gained national attention when the author of HB 1441, a bill requiring permission from a partner before accessing an abortion, derogatorily referred to women as “hosts”. While this particular bill passed out of committee, the bill was not heard in the House.
Ultimately, only two bills related to abortion passed. Neither have any impact on services.