On May 25, Oklahoma enacted the country’s most restrictive abortion ban in effect: a Texas-style total ban on abortion designed to be enforced by private citizens. The bill, H.B. 4327, took effect immediately upon Governor Kevin Sitt’s signature, making Oklahoma the first state to ban abortion entirely while Roe v. Wade stands.
“We are seeing the beginning of a domino effect that will spread across the entire South and Midwest if Roe falls,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Banning abortion after six weeks was not extreme enough for Oklahoma lawmakers. The goal of the anti-abortion movement is to ensure no one can access abortion at any point for any reason. Right now, patients in Oklahoma are being thrown into a state of chaos and fear. That chaos will only intensify as surrounding states cut off access as well. We will not stop fighting for the people of Oklahoma and for everyone across the country.”
The enactment of H.B. 4327 comes just over two weeks after Oklahoma’s six-week vigilante ban, S.B. 1503, took effect, eliminating almost all abortion access after approximately six weeks of pregnancy. Like the newest ban, S.B. 1503 is modeled on the Texas ban that incentivizes private individuals to bring costly and harassing lawsuits against abortion providers, health center works, or others who help someone access abortion care in violation of the law. Those who successfully sue would be awarded at least $10,000.
Today, the Center and its partners—Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Blake Patton of Walding & Patton—filed a challenge in Oklahoma state court to block the total ban from taking effect on behalf of plaintiffs: Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, Dr. Alan Braid, Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and Planned Parenthood of Arkansas & Eastern Oklahoma. Read the court filing here.
Oklahoma’s Total Ban Will Have Profoundly Harmful Impacts
The impact of this ban will be immediate and profoundly harmful. People seeking abortion will be forced to travel hundreds of miles outside the state, increasing financial and other burdens to accessing care. Those who are unable to access care out of state due to limited financial resources, paid time off work, or access to transportation and other barriers may attempt to self-manage an abortion without support from a health care provider or be faced with forced pregnancy, which is a violation of their human rights.
Research shows that women who are denied wanted abortion care experience long-lasting harm that impacts their financial security and physical and mental health. Women unable to access care experience an increase in household poverty lasting at least four years and struggle to cover basic expenses like food, housing, and transportation for years to come. They are more likely to stay in contact with a violent partner and experience long-term health problems.
The impact of Oklahoma’s ban will also exacerbate the harm caused by Texas’s ban. Prior to this ban, Oklahoma was a key point of access for people travelling from Texas to access abortion care. Patients from Texas and Oklahoma will now be forced to travel even further to access this essential health care.
The people who will be harmed most by this ban are those who already face discriminatory obstacles to accessing health care, particularly Black, Indigenous, and people of color, women, those living on low incomes, young people, members of the LGBTQI+ community, immigrants, and those living in rural areas.
Oklahoma Already Severely Restricts Abortion
According to the Center’s analysis in What if Roe Fell? Oklahoma is one of 25 states likely to ban abortion outright through criminal penalties if the U.S. Supreme Court weakens or overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case affirming the right to abortion in the U.S.
In addition to S.B. 1503, Oklahoma has another total ban (without a private right of action) and a Pre-Roe ban still on the books. Oklahoma also has a trigger ban intended to prohibit abortion in almost all situations if Roe is overturned “in whole or in part.” Numerous medically unnecessary restrictions already make access extremely onerous.
Since 2010, the Center has litigated 13 cases in Oklahoma, eight of which have been successfully litigated to conclusion. Despite the state’s body of restrictive laws, the Oklahoma State Constitution is broad, and Oklahoma state courts have largely declined to sanction the legislature’s attempts to restrict abortion.
U.S. Supreme Court Will Soon Decide Case Challenging Roe v. Wade
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently deliberating in the Center’s case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, challenging Mississippi’s 15-week ban on abortion. In addition to asking the Court to uphold its ban, Mississippi has asked the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and rule that there is no right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution.
On May 2, Politico published a leaked draft opinion that would overrule Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Chief Justice John Roberts later confirmed that the draft was authentic, but that it is not the final position of any Justice, nor a final opinion of the Court. The final opinion is expected before the end of the Court’s term at the end of June.
A ruling overturning Roe v. Wade would mark the first time in history that the U.S. Supreme Court has taken away a personal liberty right, a decision that would harm millions in the U.S. and have rippling impacts around the world.
- H.B. 4327, Oklahoma’s Texas-style total abortion ban, and the lawsuit filed directly in the Oklahoma Supreme Court
- Oklahoma Becomes First State to Entirely Ban Abortion, 05.25.2022
- Oklahoma’s Vigilante Abortion Ban Takes Effect, Further Devastating Access in the Region, 05.04.2022
- Center and Partners Sue Oklahoma Over Abortion Bans That Would Further Devastate Access in the Region, 04.28.2022
- What if Roe Fell?
- S.B. 612, Oklahoma’s total abortion ban, and the lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County District Court
- S.B. 1503, Oklahoma’s Texas-style vigilante abortion ban, and the lawsuit filed directly in the Oklahoma Supreme Court