OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday sent Gov. Mary Fallin a bill that would make it a felony to perform abortions in Oklahoma, despite a long-standing U.S. Supreme Court case legalizing the procedure.
Senate Bill 1552 by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, would also allow the revocation of medical licenses for physicians who perform abortions.
One group said it would be the most extreme legislation in the nation, should it be enacted.
The measure, which has an exemption to save the life of the mother, passed by a vote of 33-12 with no debate.
The courts have tossed out a number of bills passed by Oklahoma lawmakers and signed by Fallin that put additional regulations on abortion.
Dahm said he believes life begins at conception and the measure is an effort to protect life.
“I believe that is a core function of state government to defend that life from the beginning of conception,” Dahm said.
The Senate’s only physician, Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, called the measure “insane” and said he was certain it would be successfully challenged in court.
The Senate’s action spread quickly as news agencies in the U.S. and abroad reported about the bill’s passage, and it brought a storm of reaction on social media.
Dahm said the measure likely will be challenged but said a group has offered to defend it at no cost to the state. Legal costs were a concern with the state facing a $1.3 billion hole for the coming fiscal year, he said.
Dahm said it is possible that if a suit is filed, it could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the court decision legalizing abortion.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which has successfully lodged lawsuits over the state’s abortion laws, called on Fallin for a veto.
If allowed to become law, it would be “the most extreme abortion law in this country since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973,” Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel with the Center for Reproductive Rights, wrote in a letter to Fallin.
The Center for Reproductive rights has sued the state eight times in the past six years and won every case in which a final judgment was rendered, she wrote.
NARAL Pro-Choice America also weighed in, urging Fallin to veto the measure.
In a letter to Fallin, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse G. Hogue said the measure would close clinics and put the procedure out of reach for most women. “Recent U.S. history shows us that when abortion becomes inaccessible, women do not stop seeking care — it just becomes more dangerous,” Hogue said.
The measure puts physicians in the crosshairs for providing women with the option of exercising a fundamental right to decide how and when to start a family, she said in a press release.
“This obviously unconstitutional bill never will withstand legal scrutiny and is designed to scare doctors and shame women,” she said. “It is a shameful new low for the anti-choice movement.”
House passes anti-abortion information measure: The House passed a bill earlier Thursday that would require the state Department of Health to develop informational material “for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society,” but lawmakers didn’t approve any funding for it.
The House voted 69-15 for the measure, which now goes to the Senate.
The Humanity of the Unborn Child Act by Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, authorizes the health department to develop a public information campaign about the developmental stages of a fetus and alternatives to abortion. It also authorizes an optional instructional program for students.
A previous version of the bill that required the state’s public schools to teach that life begins at conception was amended in the Senate.
Coody says the legislation can be implemented only if funding is available in the future.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.