Oklahoma legislature passes near total ban on abortion

Bill would enable citizens to sue anyone who ‘aids or abets’ a woman to end a pregnancy

A new law passed by politicians in Oklahoma, banning abortion after conception, is the most extreme attempt to undo fundamental rights, US president Joe Biden’s administration has said.

It again warned other rights such as to contraception and same-sex marriage were also potentially in jeopardy in the US.

Oklahoma’s Republican-led legislature passed the nation’s strictest abortion ban on Thursday. The Bill, if signed into law, would allow citizens to sue anyone, anywhere who “aids or abets” a patient in terminating a pregnancy.

The Bill bans abortion from conception, even before an egg implants in the uterus, and would go into effect immediately if signed by Republican governor, Kevin Stitt. Abortion providers expect he will do so before the coming week.

Like a six-week abortion ban in Texas, Oklahoma's Bill would be enforced by citizens. It would allow anyone, anywhere to sue for $10,000 (€9,450) and "emotional distress", even if they do not have a relationship to the patient in question.

The White House said the president, who began a five-day visit to South Korea and Japan on Friday, believed women had the fundamental right to make their own reproductive health choices.

“The action by the Oklahoma legislature is the most extreme effort to undo these fundamental rights we have seen to date. In addition, it adopts Texas’ absurd plan to allow private citizens to sue their neighbours for providing reproductive healthcare and helping women to exercise their constitutional rights,” said press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement.

“The president is committed to standing up for these constitutional rights, and for protecting Americans’ fundamental freedoms.”

Meanwhile, yesterday Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone banned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from receiving Communion due to her support for abortion.

Oklahoma's Bill, "is not one more ban, it is not another ban – it is a first," said Emily Wales, interim president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which serves patients in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The law, "encourages bounty hunters to sue their neighbours", and is a "reversal of history happening before our eyes".

The Bill is part of an aggressive push in Republican-led states across the country to scale back abortion rights.

It comes on the heels of an unprecedented leaked draft opinion from the supreme court, which suggested a majority of conservative justices support a total reversal of Roe v Wade. The landmark decision legalised abortion nearly 50 years ago and invalidated dozens of state abortion bans.

A final ruling in a key case from Mississippi, called Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organisation, is expected next month. If the final decision does not change substantially from the leaked draft, the court would in effect return the issue of legal abortion to the states. At least 26 states would be certain or likely to ban abortion. The leaked opinion sparked uproar from Americans who support abortion access, a roughly two-thirds majority according to polls, and human rights leaders.

The Oklahoma Bill promoted by Collinsville Republican representative Wendi Stearman would prohibit all abortions in the state, except to save the life of a pregnant woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.

“Is our goal to defend the right to life or isn’t it?” Ms Stearman asked her colleagues before the Bill passed on a 73-16 vote mostly along party lines.

The Bill is one of at least three abortion bans sent to Mr Stitt this year. The other laws include a six-week abortion ban and a criminal abortion ban, though the way the laws will interact is not yet known. The criminal abortion ban, set to take effect this summer if Roe falls, would make it a felony to perform an abortion punishable by up to 10 years in prison, with no exceptions for rape or incest. – Additional reporting: Guardian/Agencies