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Oklahoma lawmakers pass legislation to ban almost all abortions By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A doctor performs an ultrasound on a patient from Austin, Texas, before her surgical abortion at the Trust Women Clinic in Oklahoma City, USA, December 6, 2021. Photo taken December 6, 2021. REUTERS / Evelyn Hockstein / File photo

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – The Oklahoma legislature on Thursday approved two bills that would ban virtually all abortions, and both laws put together by Republicans will take effect immediately if the governor signs them as he has promised.

Oklahoma would become the most restrictive U.S. state for abortions under the bill passed by the state Senate to ban them except in the event of a medical emergency, rape, or incest. In the past, the state House of Representatives has approved a separate piece of legislation banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The Senate had also previously approved this measure.

“The purpose of this bill is to protect unborn children, which is why we all say that abortion is prohibited except in limited circumstances,” Senator Julie Daniels, a Republican, said of the near-total ban.

Gov. Kevin Stitt, also a Republican, has said he will sign any anti-abortion legislation that reaches his desk.

Should the near-total ban be passed, it would be the only one of its kind coming into force in the United States since Roe v. Wade’s 1973 decision of the Supreme Court established abortion rights nationwide, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group advocating for abortion rights. .

Republican-led states have passed increasingly stringent abortion bans in anticipation that a forthcoming Supreme Court ruling will change or alter Roe v. Wade.

The Supreme Court must before the end of June decide a case involving a Republican-backed Mississippi abortion law. During oral arguments, conservative judges signaled a willingness to dramatically curtail abortion rights.

Oklahoma’s four abortion clinics had prepared for Thursday’s legislative action, which could mean they would soon have to completely discontinue abortion services.

Planned Parenthood and other advocacy advocates on Thursday filed two lawsuits in Oklahoma courts trying to block the enforcement of the new six-week ban as well as an almost total ban passed earlier this month that threatens jail for providers.

Dr. Shelly Tien said she knew the surgical and medical abortions she performed at the Trust Women Clinic in Oklahoma City earlier this week could be her last in the state. Tien travels every month from Florida to work at the clinic.

“It makes me very sad that I will not be able to return there and provide care to those patients,” she said.

More than half of her patients this week were from Texas, she said. Oklahoma had become a destination for Texas women wanting to end their pregnancies after their home state’s six-week ban took effect last fall.

In recent weeks, Trust Women has scheduled several patients for abortions at its sister clinic in Wichita, Kansas, about a two-hour drive away, spokesman Zack Gingrich-Gaylord said.

The Wichita Clinic has hired about half a dozen new abortion doctors, hiring support staff and also adding more days where abortions are given to prepare for an increase in patients from Oklahoma, he said. Abortion is legal in Kansas for up to 20 weeks during pregnancy.

Gingrich-Gaylord said the Oklahoma City clinic has scheduled some abortion agreements with medication for next week, but they are conditional on when the governor signs the ban.

The House must first approve changes to the near-total ban before going to the governor.

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