News Law and Policy

Oklahoma Lawmakers Follow Kansas With Radical Anti-Choice Law

Teddy Wilson

The Republican-controlled Oklahoma legislature approved a ban on a medical procedure used after a miscarriage and during second-trimester abortions, just one day after Kansas became the first state to ban the procedure.

The Republican-controlled Oklahoma legislature approved a ban on a medical procedure used after a miscarriage and during second-trimester abortions, just one day after Kansas became the first state to ban the procedure.

HB 1721, sponsored by Rep. Pam Peterson (R-Tulsa), would make it unlawful for any person to purposely perform or attempt to perform a “dismemberment abortion” unless it is necessary to prevent serious health risk to the pregnant woman.

The legislation targets the dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure that is frequently used during second-trimester abortions.

The bill passed the state senate Wednesday by a vote of 37-4. The house passed the bill February 26 with a vote of 84-2. The legislation was passed with bipartisan support.

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Martha Skeeters, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, said in a statement after the bill was passed by the house that the legislation was about political agendas and not the health and safety of women.

“Every pregnant woman faces unique circumstances, challenges, and potential complications,” Skeeters said. “We must trust each woman to make the decisions that are right for her, and enable her to get the care she needs according to the best medical counsel—not the agendas of politicians who presume to know better.”

Supporters of the bill used graphic language to describe the procedure, and as justification for the bill’s passage during the floor debate in the house. Peterson invoked Nazi Germany and the Holocaust when presenting the bill on the floor.

“Words mean something, we sanitize words,” Peterson said. “The Nazis were really efficient at that. The Final Solution was Auschwitz, and it didn’t really describe what was going on.”

The bill, based on legislation drafted by the radically anti-choice National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), redefines the D and E procedure as “dismemberment” abortion. The law’s graphic and medically inaccurate language describing the D and E procedure is key to the NRLC’s strategy to pass similar laws in other states.

Bills to ban the D and E procedure have also been introduced in Missouri and South Carolina.

“We applaud the Oklahoma legislature for standing up for unborn children by passing the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act,” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said in a statement. “This is a transformative law that has the power to change how the public views the gruesome reality of abortion in the United States.”

The legislation includes civil and criminal penalties; abortion providers could face as many as two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Angie Remington, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said in a statement that the legislation interjects the government into the relationship between a woman and her doctor.

“While women should not have to justify their personal medical decisions, the reality is that nine in ten abortions in the U.S. occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy,” Remington said. “Abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy is less common, but in all cases, a woman and her doctor need every medical option available.”

Oklahoma State Department of Health records show that of the 5,000 abortions performed in the state during 2013, about 5 percent were performed using the D and E procedure, reports the Associated Press.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has been a staunchly anti-choice throughout her political career, but has not said publicly whether she will sign the bill.

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