On May 3, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law a new bill that would prohibit women from receiving an abortion after roughly six weeks of pregnancy, which is around the timeframe where a physician would be able to detect cardiac activity in an embryo. The new legislation, which is called the “Oklahoma Heartbeat Act” (SB 1503) includes a similar protocol to Texas’ Senate Bill 8, where private citizens would be allowed to sue abortion clinics, medical professionals, or anyone who assists a woman to obtain an abortion.
Stitt took to Twitter immediately after signing the problematic law into effect, telling his followers that he was “proud” of the move.
“I want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country because I represent all four million Oklahomans who overwhelmingly want to protect the unborn,” his tweet read.
Those who defy the “Oklahoma Heartbeat Act” will face steep penalties
The bill is concerning for a number of different reasons. Many women do not know they are pregnant around the 6-week mark which now shortens the window they would have to receive the procedure. If an individual misses the cut-off, anyone who assists them with performing or obtaining abortion treatment in the state may be subject to pay up to $10,000 in statutory damages for each abortion they aid in violation of the act, CNN notes.
The bill offers some leniency if a woman must receive the procedure as a result of a medical emergency, but there are no exceptions for a woman who becomes pregnant as a result of rape or incest. Sadly, unless the court contests the bill, the “Oklahoma Heartbeat Act” goes into effect immediately and abortion providers would be required to stop all services, a sad reality that will have a harsh impact on young women who more often rely on these medical resources to control their destinies.
In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 4,995 abortions were performed in Oklahoma. In 2020, the number dropped to 3797, the lowest in 20 years. The number also includes out-of-state residents who fled to Oklahoma to receive the procedure. Now, those living in outlawed states like Texas seeking to obtain an abortion nearby will be left with fewer alternatives.
Women between the ages of 20 and 29 accounted for nearly 56.9 percent of abortions. Non-Hispanic White women and non-Hispanic Black women made up a large majority of abortion cases at 33.4 and 38. 4 percent respectively that year.
Why do women have an abortion?
It’s extremely personal and complicated. A 2004 survey conducted by Guttmacher Institue found that nearly 74 percent of respondents felt as though having a child would dramatically change their life. 73 percent said they couldn’t afford to have a child. While 48 percent cited relationship troubles and the fear of single motherhood as their reason for undergoing the procedure. Health risks also impacted the surveyees’ responses with many fearing that their struggles with fibroids or cysts would cause further complications down the road during pregnancy.
Religion could also impact a woman’s decision to abort, but all in all, it’s not the government’s decision to decide. Women should have the right to choose. Fast forward to 2022 and some of those concerns still exist for women today. With an ongoing pandemic causing soaring inflation and employment insecurity at a record high, abortion is an option for those who aren’t ready for the responsibility of motherhood under the tough circumstances in America. That right is slowly being stripped away with the implementation of laws like Senate Bill 8 and the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act. Now, Roe V. Wade may be under threat.
Roe V. Wade could be overturned
Earlier this week, POLITICO received a 98-page draft majority decision that appeared to show the Supreme Court ruling in favor of overturning Roe V. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that protected abortion rights under the constitution. While concerning, the verdict won’t be finalized until the case is officially over.
Dr. Iman Alasden the medical director of Planned Parenthood Great Plains told the Huffington Post, that the bans on abortion rights in Texas and Oklahoma are just an eerie look ahead at what a “post-Roe” United States might look like.
“Since that day, my colleagues and I have regularly treated patients who are fleeing their communities to seek care,” Alsaden said of how things are currently in Texas since the Senate 8 Bill took effect in September of last year. “They’re taking time off of work, taking time out of school and taking time away from their family responsibilities to get the care that until September 2021 they were able to get safely and readily in their communities.”
Unfortunately, earlier this year in Oklahoma, Gov. Stitt signed a bill that would make performing an abortion a felony crime but that measure won’t be instated until the summer and some legal experts believe it will be overturned since Roe V. Wade is still enforced under the constitution.