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The Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City. Alamy Stock Photo

Oklahoma legislature passes ban on abortions after six weeks

The bill includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for cases of rape or incest.

THE OKLAHOMA STATE legislature has passed a bill banning abortions after approximately six weeks of pregnancy – a move that also threatens to cut off access for women from the neighbouring state of Texas, which enacted a similar law last year.

The bill, which passed the Oklahoma House by a large majority, includes exceptions for medical emergencies, but not for cases of rape or incest.

Having already passed the Senate in March, it now goes to the Republican governor, who is widely expected to sign it.

The bill is modeled after a law currently in place in Texas which bans abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, typically around six weeks into a pregnancy, and allows members of the public to sue abortion providers as a mechanism to help enforce the measure.

With around 30 million residents, Texas is the second-largest state in the country by population.

Since its abortion law came into force last September, neighboring states like Oklahoma have been flooded with patients seeking abortions, maxing out clinics’ capacities and causing long delays.

“Oklahoma is a critical state for abortion access right now, with many Texans fleeing to Oklahoma for abortion care,” said Nancy Northup, head of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a tweet announcing her organization’s legal challenges to the law.

“These bans would further decimate abortion access across the South,” she added.

Only a few hours after the Oklahoma House vote yesterday, the state Senate approved a different bill that would ban all abortions, regardless of the stage of pregnancy, with exception for medical emergencies, rape and incest. That bill now will wind its way through the legislature.

In addition to Texas and Oklahoma, several other Republican-controlled states, such as Florida and Mississippi, have passed laws restricting abortion.

Mississippi’s law is currently being challenged at the US Supreme Court, with a decision expected in June.

Republicans hope that the Supreme Court, which now has six conservative justices to only three liberals, will use the case to limit or even eliminate the right to an abortion, which it recognized in its landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

© AFP 2022

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