By Emma Reilly
Last week, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 612 — a near-total abortion ban — into law. Abortion rights advocates claim that the new law is unconstitutional, yet a closer look indicates that constitutionality may no longer be of any consequence to the question of abortion in the United States.
Under SB 612, a pregnant person may undergo an abortion only in the case of a medical emergency. The law’s definition of what constitutes a medical emergency makes it clear that only people who will face irreparable bodily harm upon giving birth will be authorized to get abortions in Oklahoma.
The law does not make an exception for victims of rape and incest. It does not account for the emotional and financial harm unwanted pregnancies inflict on pregnant people and it does not include a time limit during which abortions will still be legal.
According to The Turnaway Study, a decade-long endeavor consisting of almost 1,000 women’s experiences at 30 different abortion clinics, “Women denied a wanted abortion who have to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term have four times greater odds of living below the Federal Poverty Level.”
The study also concluded that denying abortions to people who want them leads them to experience abuse, anxiety, long-term complications like chronic pain, and even death at a higher rate.
People seeking abortions are not the only ones who will be affected by this law’s passage, however.
Children born from unwanted pregnancies continue to face repercussions throughout their lifetime, according to the study.
Additionally, performing an unauthorized abortion is punishable as a felony offense under the new law, although Oklahoma will not institute the private enforcement method that Texas has. Those accused of conducting an illegal abortion could face up to 10 years in prison or a fine as steep as $100,000 under SB 612.
Sadly, the passage of this restrictive legislation comes as no surprise.
For one thing, Gov. Stitt is extremely vocal about his anti-abortion attitude. According to Vox, Gov. Stitt “has committed to signing any anti-abortion legislation that comes across his desk and has previously described himself as America’s ‘most pro-life governor.’”
Oklahoma’s law was also precluded by Texas’ similarly restrictive Senate Bill 8, which was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbot last year. SB 8 prevents Texans seeking an abortion from doing so after six weeks of gestation, despite the fact that nearly a third of people do not realize they are pregnant until after the six-week mark.
SB 8 also “deputizes private citizens to sue anyone who ‘aids or abets’ the provision of such an abortion, with successful plaintiffs receiving a minimum of $10,000,” The 19th Newssaid.
In light of SB 8, many Texans were traveling out of state — to Oklahoma — to get an abortion.
“For the few remaining abortion providers in Oklahoma, the bill [is] catastrophic,” Vox said. “There are just four such facilities across the entire state, which have seen soaring demand since last September, when neighboring Texas enacted [SB 8].”
Abortion rights advocates oppose Oklahoma’s law, like they do Texas’, for its apparent disregard for judicial precedent. It is clear to pro-choice Americans that both laws go against the paradigm established by Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision in which a person’s fundamental right to an abortion was established.
However, “from Florida to Idaho, Republican-led state legislatures have been operating as though Roe has already been struck down, advancing restrictions that aim to make abortion illegal in as many circumstances as possible,” The New York Times said.
It is disheartening to see such life-shattering legislation pass in one state, let alone multiple. Even more so, it is frightening to see these laws diminish the significance of the Roe decision.
“During [arguments for a Mississippi abortion case] in December 2021, most of the justices in the court’s new conservative majority seemed to question the constitutional foundation of the nearly 50-year-old precedent that guarantees the right to abortion nationwide,” NPR said.
Oklahoma’s new abortion restrictions make it nearly impossible for pregnant people to seek out the medial care that is within their rights. It harms pregnant people seeking abortions, and will continue to harm them after their pregnancy comes to term.
On top of it all, the passage of such extreme legislation threatens the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, dangerously endangering the longevity and endurance of the historic decision and making way for the passage of more expansive anti-abortion laws.
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Featured Photo Caption: Oklahoma was a refuge for Texans seeking an abortion before Gov. Stitt’s passage of SB 612.