Breaking: Oklahoma governor signs total abortion ban, setting stage for loss of access in the region
For Immediate Release: April 12, 2022
Today, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed S.B. 612, a total abortion ban in the state. If it takes effect as scheduled in August, it will be a felony to perform an abortion, punishable with up to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine. Unlike two other bans moving in the state’s legislature, S.B. 612 lacks a private enforcement mechanism modeled on Texas’s devastating abortion ban. But unless blocked by the courts, it would be just as destructive for Oklahomans and their neighbors, since it will eliminate access and force thousands of patients to turn elsewhere for care.
This is the latest move in Oklahoma policymakers’ attack on reproductive freedom. In the last week, legislators have also sent two other abortion bans modeled on Texas’s “sue-thy-neighbor” enforcement provision — the six-week ban S.B. 1503 and the total ban H.B. 4327 — to their final votes. If passed, those bans would take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, meaning even patients waiting for their appointments with Oklahoma abortion providers that day wouldn’t get the care they need.
Oklahoma abortion providers, represented by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Center for Reproductive Rights, have pledged to challenge any ban that is signed into law in Oklahoma this session. Just last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court blocked five anti-abortion laws — including a near-total abortion ban — that would have stopped patients throughout the state from getting care.
Statement from Emily Wales, interim president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes:
“It’s a very dark day in Oklahoma. We have been in the middle of a crisis for the last seven months — as Texans have been forced to leave their home states for care — and now Oklahomans may have to do the same. It’s unconscionable. But know this: the law signed today is not yet in effect, and abortion remains legal in Oklahoma. We will fight back against these cruel bans in court because people shouldn’t have to cross state lines in secret to access care that should be available in their communities. Planned Parenthood has served Oklahomans for decades and will continue to do just that. While we have a long fight ahead of us, our doors will stay open, and we are here to provide care with dignity.”
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
“Once again, Oklahoma politicians are putting themselves in control of personal health decisions that belong to Oklahomans and their families. For people who’ve had abortions, who love those who’ve had abortions, and who may need to access abortion themselves, this session has been the latest display of callousness from elected officials. This ban, like all abortion bans, will harm real people — people who are making a decision that they know will be best for themselves, their lives, their families, and their futures. Oklahoma politicians may have abandoned their constituents — but Planned Parenthood and our partners will not. We will challenge any abortion ban enacted in Oklahoma.”
In the coming months, more than 900,000 Oklahoman women of reproductive age, and many other people who can become pregnant, could face the same dangerous reality as their neighbors in Texas, with no way to get care in their communities. Oklahoma heath centers are currently seeing dozens of patients each day who have left Texas to seek abortions. Some providers have reported a nearly 2500% increase in Texas patients in the last four months of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. And in turn, Oklahomans have started leaving for care in Kansas, Colorado, Arkansas, or even states further afield. If Oklahoma health centers are forced to stop providing abortion, the ripple effect will be felt throughout the region.
Abortion is already difficult to access in Oklahoma. Many patients who already face barriers to health care due to systemic discrimination and racism, — especially those in the Black, Latino, or Indigenous communities, LGBTQ+ community, people with lower incomes, who live in rural areas, or who are young — will be harmed the most by this ban. While some patients have or will find the resources to travel for their abortions, many will not. Some may decide to self-manage their abortion without clinical support; others may decide that they must carry their pregnancy to term and face the health risks that come with that life-altering decision.
Statement from Tamya Cox-Touré, executive director, ACLU of Oklahoma:
“The only person who should have the power to decide whether you need an abortion is you — no matter where you live, or how much money you make. Today’s signing is a reminder of the immediate threat to our community's health and reproductive freedom, serving as a placeholder to a rapidly approaching future without access to safe and legal abortion. And it is no surprise the Governor would dismiss the local advocates who continue to challenge bills like S.B. 612; he has been dismissing Oklahomans for years with his harmful policies on health care, criminal justice reform, and economic growth. What politicians have done today is create a state where anybody who can become pregnant is forced to carry out a pregnancy against their will. We must continue to fight in the courts, in our state legislature, in the streets, and at the ballot box to guarantee all people have access to the health care they need.”
Statement from Myfy Jensen-Fellows, advocacy director, Trust Women:
“Oklahoma’s slate of abortion bans sends a clear and devastating message to Oklahomans that their lives and futures are unimportant to the legislators who represent them. Not a single one of these bills will end abortions in Oklahoma. They will push people further to the margins, force people to carry pregnancies that are dangerous to their own health or take greater risks to find abortion care wherever they can. For seven months our clinics have seen first-hand the impact of the health care crisis created by Texas’s S.B. 8 — the legislation that has emboldened anti-abortion legislators across the country. It is simply unconscionable that in the face of the incredible efforts we see Texans making to access essential health care, the governor’s best response is to double down on the cruelty of S.B. 8 with legislation like S.B. 612, S.B. 1503 and H.B. 4327. The people of our region deserve access to essential health care in their own communities. No one should have to travel out of state to access abortion care. No one should be forced to carry a pregnancy that they do not want, or that is dangerous to their health. Trust Women’s clinic in Oklahoma City will stay open and we will continue to provide essential community health care for the people of Oklahoma.”