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Bill making abortion illegal starting at conception signed by Oklahoma governor

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Update (AP): — A group of abortion providers in Oklahoma filed a legal challenge the day after Gov. Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 4327. The lawsuit filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court seeks to stop the new law from taking effect. The court declined to temporarily halt a similar law that prevents abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy that took effect earlier this year. But the court did agree to hear arguments in that case and scheduled dates for briefs to be filed in June and July.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law what has been described as the most restrictive abortion legislation in the country on Wednesday.

House Bill 4327 bans abortion starting at conception. The measure, which would be enforced through civil lawsuits rather than criminal prosecution, had an emergency clause, making it effective upon the governor’s signature.

On May 19, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill banning abortions at conception. The bill only needs to be signed by the governor to go into effect immediately. If that happens, it would become the most restrictive abortion ban in the United States.

“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,” Stitt said in a statement.

“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.

“That is what I believe and that is what the majority of Oklahomans believe. If other states want to pass different laws, that is their right, but in Oklahoma, we will always stand up for life.”

HB 4327 has exceptions to save the life of the unborn child, to remove a dead unborn child, and to remove an ectopic pregnancy.

It also has exceptions to save the life of a woman in a medical emergency or if the pregnancy is the result of rape, sexual assault or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.

The measure does not bar the use of contraception.

It allows third parties to sue anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion, with damages of not less than $10,000 to be awarded for each abortion.

The woman obtaining the abortion would not be subject to the civil action.

The measure bars the person who impregnated the woman by rape, sexual assault or incest from filing suit.

“No one should be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will and face the life-altering consequences of being denied this essential health care,” said Tamya Cox-Toure, ACLU of Oklahoma executive director.

“Over the last several months, Oklahoma politicians have gone to extremes during an election year, playing partisan politics by taking away our community’s control over if and when to have a child.

“We have already seen the devastation of banning abortion play out in Texas, where many people have been forced to flee their state in search of reproductive health care or denied the care they need entirely. This nightmare has now become a reality in Oklahoma.”

Banning abortion does not eliminate the need for this kind of care but instead forces people to seek abortion outside of the health care system, she said.

“Attacks on abortion access have and will continue to fall on the most marginalized people: people of color and people struggling to make ends meet,” she said.

Toure said that this election season, everyone needs to vote like their rights depend on it.

“If abortion is going to be left to the political process, those of us who care about body autonomy and reproductive freedom must get engaged.”


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