Abortion care providers and clinics in Oklahoma are attempting to figure out their next steps after the state’s legislature nearly all abortions starting at the moment of fertilisation.
The law, which would be the nation’s strictest abortion ban, now heads to the desk of Governor Kevin Stitt. Like the six-week abortion passed in Texas last year, the Oklahoma bill allows private citizens to sue any person who provides or assists in the provision of an illegal abortion. Mr Stitt is expected to sign the law.
The consequences for the few clinics in Oklahoma that provide abortion care — not to mention the thousands of Oklahomans and out-of-state patients who seek that care — will be devastating.
The day after Oklahoma enacted a seperate six-week abortion ban several weeks ago, Tulsa Women’s Clinic escort Susan Braselton toldPBS News that the clinic had to cancel all but five of its 22 appointments. Under the new law, the clinic would likely haven’t even been able to provide care for the five people it did see.
“These laws don’t stop abortion,” Andrea Gallegos, the clinic’s executive administrator, toldThe New York Times. “Women will still seek and get abortions. We’re just forcing the citizens of this country to have to flee their own state to access health care. It’s pretty awful.”
Gallegos suggested last week that the clinic might have to close entirely in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned. This Oklahoma bill would have the same effect.
Tulsa Women’s Clinic is one of only two clinics in the city that provide abortion services. Planned Parenthood operates the other clinic in Tulsa and one in Oklahoma City as well, where the provider Trust Women also has an office. Oklahoma abortion providers had seen an explosion in demand from patients unable to access care in Texas, but many of those patients will now have to travel significantly further to access abortion.
It is an incredibly bleak landscape for abortion providers and patients. Some have suggested that Indigenous tribes in Oklahoma may be able to offer abortion care on tribal land, but Mr Stitt, who like other Republican leaders in the state opposes abortion even in the case of rape, appeared to threaten tribes considering that option over the weekend.
“We think there is the possibility that some tribes may try to set up abortion on demand,” Mr Stitt told FOX 23 in Tulsa. “They think you can be one-one thousandth tribal member and not have to follow state law.”
Oklahoma is among the most Indigenous states in the country. Only Alaska, New Mexico, and South Dakota have higher Indigenous shares of their state populations.