By Calvin Freiburger
The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed legislation that would ban nearly all abortions via an enforcement mechanism similar to that of the influential Texas Heartbeat Act.
“A physician may not knowingly perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman, unless such abortion is performed to save the life of the mother” or if a pregnancy “is the result of rape, sexual assault, or incest that has been reported to law enforcement,” House Bill 4327 states. The bill “shall be enforced exclusively through private civil actions,” against anyone that “aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of an abortion through insurance or otherwise.”
It sets a minimum amount of damages at $10,000, and lawsuits can be brought for up to four years after the abortion, against anyone who “aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion” or “intends to engage in the conduct described by this act.” Rapists who impregnate a woman seeking abortion cannot bring suits, and the mother of the baby who aborts cannot be sued.
CNN reports that the bill passed the state House 78-19 last Tuesday. Republican state Rep. Wendi Stearman, the bill’s lead sponsor, said that it “would protect the life of the unborn.”
The bill is modeled after the now-famous Texas Heartbeat Act, which only applies to babies with detectable heartbeats and so far has avoided injunction by the judiciary in large part because of its unique enforcement mechanism that relies on civil suits by private citizens, rather than prosecution by the government. Both measures were drafted by Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell. The Idaho legislature recently passed a similar bill.
The Oklahoma bill now moves to the Republican-controlled state Senate for consideration. Should it pass and be signed into law by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, its final fate will be in the hands of the courts and their final resolution of the Texas case. So far the Supreme Court has allowed the Texas law to remain in effect, leading to the estimated prevention of 15,000 abortions, but arguments on the merits continue to work their way through the lower courts.
Across the nation, pro-lifers are watching the Supreme Court with anticipation for eventual final resolution of the legal battle over the Texas law, which is likely to eventually be appealed to the justices again, as well as a ruling on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, which could result in a long-awaited overturn of Roe v. Wade that would allow states to directly ban abortion at any point in pregnancy, without having to rely on novel enforcement mechanisms like the Texas, Idaho, or Oklahoma measures.