In a setback for women's health advocates, the Oklahoma state Senate passed a bill Thursday that makes performing an abortion a felony.
The bill, SB 1552, was passed with a vote of 33-12 Thursday and would make the medical procedure punishable with up to three years in prison and would suspend the medical licenses of Oklahoma doctors who perform the procedure, local media reported. The bill next heads to the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican who has been described as anti-abortion.
The bill was proposed by Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm, and the Center for Reproductive Rights called it the first of its kind in the U.S., the Associated Press reported. Dahm said he hopes it would help overturn the Supreme Court’s historic 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized the right to have an abortion.
“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," Dahm said.
In addition to SB 1552, the Oklahoma House passed legislation — 69 to 15— Thursday that would require the state’s Department of Health to issue materials “for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society.” The Humanity of the Unborn Child Act that was put forward by Republican Rep. Ann Coody was not funded, local media reported.
Advocates supporting the constitutional right to an abortion said Oklahoma’s bill was unconstitutional and would be struck down when challenged in court. The Supreme Court ruled in the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey that states could not put an undue burden on the constitutional right to an abortion.
“This total ban on abortion is a new low. When abortion is illegal, women and their health, futures and families suffer,” wrote Amanda Allen, a lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement Thursday.
The bill in Oklahoma comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue a ruling in the coming weeks regarding a Texas law that places restrictions on abortion clinics and health providers, which could potentially decrease the number of clinics providing the procedure in the state. The Texas law was passed in 2013 and requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It also requires abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers.