Since a Texas abortion ban went into effect on Sept. 1, 2021, 45% of Texas people seeking abortions traveled to Oklahoma. That law, the Texas Heartbeat Act, bans abortion in the state as early as six weeks into a pregnancy or after a fetal heartbeat has been detected.
Now, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed an abortion ban into law that critics claim is stricter than the one in Texas. Vice President Kamala Harris and some lawmakers have claimed on social media that the law completely bans abortions “from the moment of fertilization.”
Does Oklahoma’s abortion law ban the procedure from the moment of conception?
Yes, Oklahoma’s abortion law bans the procedure from the moment of conception.
WHAT WE FOUND
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt had already signed an abortion ban modeled after the one in Texas into law in early May. Senate Bill 1503 banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.
But the latest abortion legislation signed into law in Oklahoma on May 26 takes the ban a step further. House Bill 4327 defines an unborn child as a “human fetus or embryo in any stage of gestation from fertilization until birth.”
Fertilization, or conception, occurs when a sperm and egg successfully join, typically in a person’s fallopian tube. The resulting embryo is then implanted in the uterus.
Abortion bans like those in Oklahoma and Texas were still allowed under Roe v. Wade, which federally protected the right to abortion in the United States, because they are enforced by civil action from private citizens rather than the state or authorities. That means a person can sue someone who performs an abortion or helps a person to obtain one, but “the woman herself could not be sued,” according to the Oklahoma Senate.
The Supreme Court has since overturned Roe v. Wade, ruling in favor of Mississippi's anti-abortion law in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization on June 24.
Both the state Senate and Stitt confirmed in their statements about the Oklahoma law that it bans abortions beginning at conception.
“I promised Oklahomans that as governor I would sign every piece of pro-life legislation that came across my desk and I am proud to keep that promise today. From the moment life begins at conception is when we have a responsibility as human beings to do everything we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother,” Stitt said in a statement after signing HB 4327 into law.
Rep. Wendi Stearman (R-Okla.) said in the Senate’s statement about HB 4327 that “it’s important we protect the life of unborn babies from the moment they are conceived.”
After the law was signed, Planned Parenthood said Oklahoma is the only U.S. state to “successfully outlaw abortion while Roe v. Wade still stands.” A draft opinion leaked to Politico in early May suggested the Supreme Court may overturn the landmark case.
A group of abortion providers in Oklahoma has already filed a legal challenge to the new law.
Under the Oklahoma law, abortions are only allowed to save a pregnant person’s life or in a medical emergency, or when the pregnancy is the result of rape, sexual assault or incest reported to law enforcement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.