Politics & Government

Oklahoma lawmakers pass bill to ban abortion

Julie Burkhart, CEO of the Trust Women foundation, plans to open a South Wind Women’s Center in Oklahoma City. (May 19, 2016)
Julie Burkhart, CEO of the Trust Women foundation, plans to open a South Wind Women’s Center in Oklahoma City. (May 19, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Oklahoma legislators passed a bill Thursday that makes performing an abortion illegal beginning Nov. 1.

The bill now heads to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who previously has supported anti-abortion efforts. She has five days to sign it, veto it or allow it to take effect without her signature.

Under the bill, any person performing an abortion can be charged with a felony punishable by 1 to 3 years in the state penitentiary. The bill also instructs state medical boards to revoke the licenses of doctors who perform abortions.

The bill instructs state medical boards to revoke the licenses of doctors who perform abortions and makes abortions a felony act.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm, said Thursday he hopes it will ultimately lead to the overturn of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that affirmed abortion as a constitutional right nationwide.

The Wichita-based foundation that opened South Wind Women’s Center plans to open a second location in Oklahoma City next month, which would provide abortions for the first time in that area since 2014.

Deb Gruver, spokesperson for Trust Women, said the Oklahoma City clinic, which cost about $1 million, will open next month and begin providing abortions despite the bill.

A news release about the bill from Trust Women said “Oklahoma taxpayers should not have to foot the bill to defend a law that will be ruled unconstitutional.”

Oklahoma taxpayers should not have to foot the bill to defend a law that will be ruled unconstitutional.

News release from Trust Women

Julie Burkhart, founder of Trust Women, said in an interview with The Eagle last week that Oklahoma City is currently the largest metropolitan area without an abortion provider. When Burkhart opened South Wind in Wichita in 2013, Wichita was the largest metro area without an abortion clinic.

Burkhart had previously worked for seven years with physician George Tiller – a Wichita abortion provider who was shot and killed at his church in Wichita. He was one of about a handful of late-term abortion providers in the country at the time.

The Oklahoma bill provides an exception for women who would otherwise die without the abortion, stating that if the abortion is necessary to preserve the mother’s life, that “shall not be grounds for denial or revocation of a medical license.”

The Oklahoma Senate voted 33-12 in favor of the bill Thursday with no discussion or debate; the Oklahoma House approved the bill in late April.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion rights group, said the Oklahoma bill is the first of its kind in the nation.

Oklahoma lawmakers have passed several abortion restrictions that never took effect. In the past five years, eight anti-abortion measures were challenged in court as unconstitutional.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case of an overturned Oklahoma law that would have required a woman to view an ultrasound of her fetus before an abortion. During the same year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a law that would have effectively banned drug-induced abortions.

Right now, a measure is pending before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, passed by the Legislature in 2014, that would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Contributing: Associated Press

Gabriella Dunn: 316-268-6400, @gabriella_dunn

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