Lawmakers in Oklahoma passed two bills Thursday placing strict restrictions on abortions, including banning it six weeks into pregnancy.
Senate Bill 1503, or the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, prohibits abortions in case a physician is able to detect cardiac activity in a fetus or an embryo, something which usually happens six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy.
An exemption is granted in case of medical emergencies. Citizens are allowed to bring lawsuits against individuals who perform, aid, or abet an abortion after a heartbeat is detected.
Claimants have up to six years to file a civil lawsuit. In case the claimant wins, they can get compensation of up to $10,000 in civil damages for every abortion that the defendant performed, aided, or abetted. The woman who was subjected to abortion will not face any civil actions.
The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has pledged to sign every legislation restricting abortion. Once signed, SB 1503 will come into effect immediately.
Stitt had previously signed SB 612 into law around mid-April, which makes providing abortion in Oklahoma a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $100,000. This law comes into effect late summer. Abortion providers in the state have filed lawsuits against these two bills.
“We are asking the state courts to uphold the State Constitution and apply Oklahoma precedent to block these insidious abortion bans before they take effect,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in an April 28 press release.
“Oklahoma is a critical state for abortion access right now, with many Texans fleeing to Oklahoma for abortion care. These bans would further decimate abortion access across the South.”
The second abortion bill passed by the Oklahoma Senate on Thursday was House Bill 4327. Like SB 1503, the bill allows individuals to take civil action against those who perform or aid a person in abortion. Exceptions are provided in cases of incest or rape that are reported to law enforcement or when the mother’s life is threatened.
“While this bill may not completely stop abortion in our state, it will compel compliance by abortion providers as they will not be willing to face the statutory damages spelled out in this legislation. I’m grateful for its passage in the Senate and expect it soon to become law,” state Rep. Wendi Stearman, the House principal author of the bill, said in an April 28 Senate press release.
The Oklahoma Heartbeat Act follows similar legislation that was signed into law in Texas last year. A challenge against the law was recently dismissed by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.