Oklahoma Legislature Attempts to Criminalize Abortion
Yesterday, Oklahoma’s legislature passed a bill criminalizing abortion in any case where the mother’s life was not directly threatened by a full term pregnancy. Next, the bill will go to the office of Governor Fallin to await her review. It is likely to be approved given her support of eighteen separate anti-abortion bills since taking office in 2011 (Lachman, 2016). Under the bill become law, doctors would face up to three years in jail and a revoked medical license for performing an abortion (Brandes, 2016).
Under Governor Fallin, Oklahoma Legislature has attempted to push multiple anti-abortion bills in the past five years, all of which were opposed by several abortion rights groups. These groups, spearheaded by the Center for Reproductive Rights, have been continuously fighting the surge of legislation against their cause, arguing that these bills are a direct violation of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, 1973. This strategy has already been successful for the groups in past court cases, successfully blocking eight similar bills (NBCNews, 2016). Amanda Allen, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, commented on the recent bill stating, "Oklahoma politicians have made it their mission year after year to restrict women's access vital health care services, yet this total ban on abortion is a new low" (NBCNews, 2016).
Using the legal basis of a state’s right to control their doctors’ licensing, supporters of the bill are setting a course to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling (Brandes, H). However, because federal law overrides state law in a conflict, questions have been raised as to the incentive of attempting to pass this bill. Senator Nathan Dahm, author of the bill, has explained his motivation stating, “Since I believe life begins at conception, it should be protected, and I believe it's a core function of state government to defend that life from the beginning of conception” (Kennedy, 2016). Dahm hopes that the publicity court cases that will inevitably ensue will open a conversation to reverse the Supreme Court decision. Even if the bill is eventually struck down its supporters hope that it may still serve as a platform to reopen to abortion discussion (NBCNews, 2016).
Associated Press. (2016, May). Oklahoma Legislature Votes to Outlaw Abortion. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/health/womens-health/oklahoma-legislature-votes-outlaw-abortion-n577141
Brandes, H. (2016, May). Oklahoma bill to jail abortion doctors heads to governor. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-oklahoma-abortion-idUSKCN0YA2EL
Kennedy, M. (2016, May). Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Bill That Makes Performing An Abortion A Felony. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/05/19/478743035/oklahoma-lawmakers-pass-bill-that-makes-performing-an-abortion-a-felony
Lachman, S. (2016, May). Oklahoma’s Legislature Passed A Bill Making It A Felony To Perform An Abortion. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/oklahoma-abortion_us_573df1b9e4b0aee7b8e94b41