OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – One of the strongest anti-abortion bills in the country is headed to the Oklahoma governor’s desk.
The Oklahoma State House of Representatives passed a State Senate holdover bill from last session that would make nearly all abortions illegal in Oklahoma.
On a day when a large abortion rights rally was scheduled for the Oklahoma State Capitol, lawmakers in the House passed the bill that basically serves as a ban on abortion, with the exception of those performed to save the life of the mother.
“Senate Bill 612 would make abortion entirely illegal,” Republican state Rep. Jim Olsen said on the House floor Tuesday.
The bill makes it a felony for doctors to perform abortions, penalized by up to 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. The measure passed 70-14 and now heads to the Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk.
“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 Olsen.
Gov. Stitt has indicated that he’s likely to sign the bill into law. But former governor Mary Fallin vetoed a similar bill in 2016.
The Oklahoma House also passed the bill moments before pro-choice groups rallied on the south steps of the capitol, activists bussing in with signs and chants.
“A slew of anti-abortion bills have been sailing through the House and the Senate chambers, and we are here to make it known that it’s our bodies, our futures,” said Priya Desai of Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice.
Organizers say at least 20 bills restricting abortion were introduced this session with eight moving forward. Planned parenthood officials added that since Texas passed their restrictive laws seven months ago, they have been seeing more Texans than Oklahomans at their clinics.
“We are doing all we can to stand up for the patients we serve and all the communities here in Oklahoma that will be affected if we lose abortion here at home,” said Emily Wales of Planned Parenthood Great Plains.
The bill was the only one heard on the house floor Tuesday. Opponents say that’s no coincidence.
“That was their flex but our flex is this! Our flex is coming together,” said Tamya Cox-Toure of ACLU Oklahoma.
“It was certainly planned. The legislature knows that we are gathering today and there is a level of fear,” said Wales.
Olsen, however, said there was no “coordinated plan” to vote on the same day as the Planned Parenthood rally.
The bill, he said, was the only one on docket on Tuesday because typically abortion bills take a lot of time to run, with lots of debate and questions. But Democrats say they didn’t push back on purpose so as to not take away from the activists.
“I think it was very intentional in trying to dilute the voices of those who had come to rally today,” said Rep. Emily Virgin, the Oklahoma House Minority Leader.
SB 612 now moves on to the governor’s desk to be signed. Stitt has been very supportive of anti-abortion legislation since taking office.
The ACLU of Oklahoma calls the bill unconstitutional as they consider legal action.