Access to abortion increasingly restricted in GOP-led states


(NewsNation) — Legislation now on the desk of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt making abortion illegal is the latest in a trend of GOP-led states passing aggressive anti-abortion legislation.

The Oklahoma bill passed Tuesday on a 70-14 vote with little discussion and no debate. The legislation makes it a felony to perform an abortion in the state, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. 

“Oklahoma has overwhelmingly and repeatedly decided that we don’t want to be killing babies. There is no higher purpose that a legitimate government has than to protect innocent life,” said Oklahoma Rep. Jim Olsen, according to NewsNation affiliate KFOR.

Stitt. a Republican, has indicated he’ll sign the bill into law. 

Last week, the Arizona Legislature voted along party lines to outlaw abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, an abortion opponent who has signed every piece of anti-abortion legislation that has reached his desk since he took office in 2015.

Florida lawmakers passed a similar 15-week abortion ban early this month that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign.

Last month, Idaho became the first state to enact a law modeled after a Texas statute banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and allowing it to be enforced through lawsuits to avoid constitutional court challenges.

Republican Gov. Brad Little signed into law the measure that allows people who would have been family members to sue a doctor who performs an abortion after cardiac activity is detected in an embryo. Still, he said he had concerns about whether the law was constitutional.

Tennessee Republicans are advancing legislation that would strictly regulate the dispensing of abortion pills, including imposing harsh penalties on doctors who violate the proposed law.

Arizona’s bill mirrors a Mississippi abortion law now being considered by the nation’s high court.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling on a challenge to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that banned states from outlawing abortion. The court is considering ratcheting back abortion rights that have been in place for nearly 50 years.

In recent years, bills similar to that approved by the Oklahoma Legislature and in other conservative states have been stopped by the courts as unconstitutional, but anti-abortion lawmakers have been buoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision to allow new Texas abortion restrictions to remain in place.

The new Texas law, the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the U.S. in decades, leaves enforcement up to private citizens, who are entitled to collect what critics call a “bounty” of $10,000 if they bring a successful lawsuit against a provider or anyone who helps a patient obtain an abortion. Several states, including Oklahoma, are pursuing similar legislation this year.

After Texas passed a ban on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, more Texans went to Oklahoma for the procedure than to any other state.

Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes said Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinic in Oklahoma has seen an 800% increase in the number of women from Texas after that state passed its new anti-abortion law last year.

Now, that option is being cut off.

As more states sign anti-abortion legislation into law, experts say women who have the means will have to travel further for abortion care, while those who don’t will not be able to reach the care they require.

This could result in whole regions of the country with large swaths of citizens without access to abortion care.

New Mexico and Colorado, which have less stringent abortion restrictions, are likely to become hotspots for women in the region who have the means to travel for abortion care.

In anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling, Colorado was among a handful of other states that moved to codify the right to abortion in statute.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed into law the Reproductive Health Equity Act, which guarantees access to reproductive care before and after pregnancy and bans local governments from imposing their own restrictions.

The American Civil Liberties Union has called the recent spate of anti-abortion legislation advances unconstitutional as they look at legal action.

“These legislators have continued their relentless attacks on our freedoms,” Wales said. “These restrictions are not about improving the safety of the work that we do. They are about shaming and stigmatizing people who need and deserve abortion access.”

NewsNation affiliate KFOR and the Associated Press contributed to the report.

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