- Oklahoma has effectively outlawed abortion in the state by criminalizing it except in extremely rare cases.
- The governor signed a law making performing an abortion a felony.
- This June, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide on a case that could overturn Roe v. Wade.
On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma signed a law that will make performing an abortion a felony, effective August 26.
Senate Bill 612 would penalize anyone who performs an abortion, subjecting them to up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
The only exception is for abortions necessary to save the life of the mother.
The measure is the latest in a series of strict abortion bans passed across the country as the United States Supreme Court reevaluates the future of Roe and abortion care protections.
Reproductive rights advocates say SB.612 is unconstitutional and will likely be challenged and potentially blocked before it goes into effect.
But the future of Roe v. Wade, which depends on the outcome in the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health, could eliminate the constitutional right to abortion and allow restrictive bans like this to stay in effect.
“While the Oklahoma law is clearly unconstitutional under Roe and subsequent Supreme Court cases, that won’t necessarily be true if the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade this summer,” Jessie Hill, JD, a constitutional law professor at Case Western Reserve University, told Healthline.
Similar abortion bans approved by legislatures in Oklahoma — and other conservative states — have been deemed unconstitutional and blocked before they could go into effect.
Two rulings — Roe (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) — have protected people’s constitutional right to access a safe and legal abortion, even as legislatures have attempted to enact laws that violate the right to abortion.
In September 2021, five laws restricting abortion in Oklahoma were successfully blocked by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
“Roe and Casey should make a bill such as this facially unconstitutional as the state is outright denying abortions from being performed, regardless of whether viability has been reached,” says Nicholas Creel, PhD, an assistant professor of business law at Georgia College and State University who specializes in constitutional law.
Creel believes the Oklahoma Supreme Court may stay in line with precedent and protect the right to abortion in the state.
The U.S. Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health directly challenges Roe v. Wade. The justices are expected to decide on the case — and the future of Roe — this June.
If Roe falls, the constitutional right to abortion may be eliminated, and several states are expected to quickly pass bills that would ban abortion.
Because of this case, there’s uncertainty about how SB.612 will play out.
“If the bill is challenged immediately, for example, a court may be inclined to wait and see what happens with the Supreme Court case before ruling,” Hill said.
Hill suspects legislatures in red states are intentionally introducing restrictive bans in advance of the Supreme Court ruling.
“Today, they can pass these laws — which often don’t even take effect for a while, if at all — and fly somewhat under the radar,” Hill said.
Since Texas passed SB.8, the state’s six-week abortion ban that allows civilians to sue people who helped a pregnant person get an abortion, tens of thousands of pregnant people have fled to nearby states like Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma, to get an abortion.
Planned Parenthood estimates that Oklahoma saw a 2,500 percent increase in pregnant people from Texas after the state passed SB.8, a ban that prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
Texans also accounted for approximately half of the total number of abortion patients in the state’s Planned Parenthood health centers.
Pregnant people living in Texas would have to travel farther to reach a clinic that performs abortions.
If the abortion ban goes into effect in Oklahoma, approximately 900,000 women and transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary people of reproductive age will lose access to abortion care in Oklahoma.
Legislatures in Oklahoma have approved a bill that would ban most abortions in the state, with the exception of abortions needed to save the life of the mother. Gov. Stitt has signed the bill, so the law could go into effect in August if it holds up in court. Reproductive health advocates say the ban is unconstitutional and expect it to be challenged and blocked before it goes into effect.