Oklahoma state lawmakers on Thursday gave final approval to Texas-style legislation that would ban nearly all abortions in the state beginning at conception and empower state residents to file civil lawsuits against abortion providers or anyone who helps a woman terminate her pregnancy.
The new pro-life bill is now headed to the desk of Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has indicated he will sign it into law.
House Bill 4327, which only permits abortion in instances where the mother's life is in danger or if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest reported to police, will likely become the strictest ban on abortion in the United States.
It follows in the footsteps of two other abortion restrictions passed in the state, the Associated Press reported. Another Texas-style bill that bans abortions after cardiac activity is detected has already taken effect and significantly curtailed the practice in Oklahoma. That bill was followed by yet another that makes it a felony to perform an abortion, punishing violators by up to 10 years in prison.
"Is our goal to defend the right to life or isn’t it?" state Rep. Wendi Stearman (R) asked colleagues prior to the vote on the most recent bill in an attempt to rally enthusiasm around the historic measure. The bill went on to pass 73-16, primarily along party lines.
"I value life, and it should never be permitted by law to take the life of a child born or unborn," Stearman later said in a press release. Her colleagues and the governor agree. Stitt has reportedly said that he will pass any pro-life legislation that comes across his desk.
News of the bill's passage immediately drew praise from Republicans and pro-life advocates in the state and across the country. But Democrats and abortion advocates decried the bill as yet another extreme attack on women's rights.
Vice President Kamala Harris slammed the bill during a virtual meeting with abortion providers and activists on Thursday, calling it "outrageous."
"[It's] outrageous, and it’s just the latest in a series of extreme laws around the country," Harris said. "Several of the medical professionals joining us today are seeing the impact of these laws that are designed to punish and control women."
She went on to condemn the Oklahoma law as just the latest in a string of opportunistic assaults on abortion rights following a leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court showing that a majority of justices had decided to overturn the Roe v. Wade, a landmark ruling that that established the right to an abortion in 1973.
"The right to privacy that forms the basis of Roe is the same right to privacy that protects the right to use contraception and the right to marry the person you love, including a person of the same sex. Overturning Roe opens the door to restricting those rights," Harris argued,
She added: "It would be a direct assault on the fundamental right of self-determination — to live and love without interference from the government."