The Oklahoma state legislature passed a “Texas-style” bill Thursday that bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
Senate Bill 1503, the “Oklahoma Heartbeat Act,” was authored by Republican state Senator Julie Daniels and state Representative Todd Russ. The bill passed the Oklahoma state House of Representatives 68-12, sending the bill to the desk of Republican Governor Kevin Stitt, who is expected to sign the bill into law in the coming days, the Associated Press reported. The Bill passed the State Senate 33-11 in March.
The text of the legislation states that “an abortion may not be performed or induced on a pregnant woman unless a physician has determined, in accordance with this section, whether the woman’s unborn child has a detectable fetal heartbeat.”
The bill defines a fetal heartbeat as “cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the fetal heart within the gestational sac,” which lines up with medical experts who say that a fetal heartbeat can be detected by a vaginal ultrasound between 5 1/2 and 6 1/2 weeks of gestation. The bill then states that a physician “shall not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman if the physician detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child,” or if the physician did not test for a fetal heartbeat. The bill makes exceptions for a medical emergency, but requires physicians to record what that emergency was and why the physician felt the emergency necessitated an abortion.
Like the Texas law, the Oklahoma bill is enforced by civil action. Any private citizen may bring a lawsuit against a person who performs an abortion, as well as anyone who “engages in conduct that aids or abets” the procurement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of the abortion procedure. The bill does not allow the woman who received the abortion to be included as a defendant in the lawsuit. If the suit is successful, the courts can then issue an injunction preventing the person from performing or aiding and abetting the abortion, and claimants are entitled to damages of up to $10,000 for each abortion performed in violation of the legislation, as well as other nominal and compensatory damages.
The Oklahoma state Senate also passed another piece of legislation Thursday that would ban all abortions from the moment of conception, using the same enforcement method of civil action. That bill now heads to the state House of Representatives for a vote.
The abortion ban follows closely behind another bill passed by the legislature and signed into law by Stitt earlier this month that makes abortion a felony, punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and up to 10 years in state prison. Oklahoma is also just the latest state to pass a bill similar to Texas’ landmark abortion ban. Idaho, Tennessee, and South Dakota have all passed bills similar to the Texas law in recent months.
The Oklahoma law’s passage also comes on the heels of developments indicating that the Supreme Court may move to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion in a completely unrelated case Thursday morning, but Court watchers note that Roberts, who has already written two other majority opinions this term, will likely not write the opinion in the upcoming Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, which deals with a Mississippi law banning abortion outright after 15 weeks of pregnancy.