Abortion bill puts healthcare providers in the crosshairs

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Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt speaks after signing into law a bill making performing an abortion a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Lawmakers are directly targeting health care providers in their attempts to ban abortion in Oklahoma, a move decried by doctors and abortion rights activists.

Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law the first in a series of bills coming out of the Legislature this year on Tuesday that would jail and fine health care providers who perform abortions. More bills are coming — which the governor has already promised to sign — that would financially incentivize anyone in the state to take a health care provider to court suspected of providing or assisting with an abortion.

The response from medical professionals and activists was swift:

“Once again, Oklahoma politicians are taking control of the personal health decisions that belong to Oklahomans and their families,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “This ban, like all abortion bans, will hurt real people – people who make a decision that they know will be best for themselves, their life, their family and their future.”

“The Oklahoma State Medical Association remains committed to preserving the right of physicians to practice and meet the needs of their patients without politicians interfering in the doctor-patient relationship,” said Oklahoma State Medical President. , Mary Clarke, in a statement.

Lawmakers say they are generating multiple bills with redundant and even contradictory provisions in hopes that some measures will stand after the US Supreme Court issues a ruling on abortion this summer.

“We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country,” Stitt said as he signed Senate Bill 612 into law on Tuesday. “We want to ban abortion in the state of Oklahoma.”

“What I like about this one (the bill) is that there is no punishment for the mother,” Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said. “It’s for the practitioner doing it.”

SB 612, by State Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, and State Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, states that the new law does not authorize “the charge or conviction of a woman for a criminal offense in the death of his own unborn child.

Instead, the measure makes the act of performing or attempting to perform an abortion at any stage of gestation a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $100,000.

The bill provides that a licensed physician can defend themselves in court alleging that medical treatment given to the woman accidentally resulted in injury or death to the fetus.

The signing ceremony for SB 612 came a day after a legislative committee advanced House Bill 4327, by Rep. Wendi Stearman, R-Collinsville and Dahm, one step closer to the governor’s office . HB 4327 is one of two bills modeled after a Texas law that allows any resident to sue someone they believe performed an abortion or assisted a woman in having an abortion. HB 4327 would create a civil action against abortion providers and those who assist, with statutory damages set at no less than $10,000.

Although Dahm told the media on Monday that a doctor wrongfully charged under the provisions of the law could have their case thrown out, the wording of the bill says doctors would still be saddled with legal costs and fees.

“Notwithstanding any other law, a court shall not award court costs or attorneys’ fees to a defendant in an action brought under this section,” reads the wording of HB 4327. The measure does not does not proscribe the evidence that the physician would have to call to win summary judgment.

In committee, State Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, noted that Oklahoma already has a shortage of health care providers.

“Do you feel like an unintended consequence of this move could be that we might have a much harder time recruiting OB-GYN doctors for our state to practice medicine?” Hicks asked.

“I hope this will allow these doctors to focus on pregnancy resources rather than abortions,” Dahm replied.

State Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, and State Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell’s SB 1503, dubbed the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, is also making its way to the governor’s office. SB 1503 would also create a civil action against abortion providers and those who assist them, although this measure prohibits abortions after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected.

The measures also target those who pay or reimburse the cost of an abortion, prohibiting individuals from contributing to funds set up to help women seeking abortions. The bills are drafted to exempt its provisions from challenges based on the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act or the Oklahoma Citizen Involvement Act.

House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said SB 612 is detrimental to the health of Oklahoma residents who cannot afford to travel to other states for health. abort.

“Like the others, this attempt will be challenged in court at the expense of Oklahoma taxpayers, and like the others, it will be found unconstitutional,” Virgin said.

Legislation passed last year that would have reprimanded doctors who perform abortions for “unprofessional conduct” and disqualified more than half of the state’s abortion providers by requiring some degree of licensing is currently on hold, as they are challenged in court by lawyers for access to abortion.

Abortion rights advocates have already vowed to also challenge this year’s measures in court.

“Oklahoma lawmakers are trying to ban abortion on all sides and just see which of these dangerous and shameful bills they can get their governor to sign,” Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, OB/GYN, told The Daily Mail. Texas and Oklahoma and a board member of Physicians for Reproductive Health, in a statement. “As an obstetrician-gynecologist and abortion provider caring for patients from Texas traveling to Oklahoma, I am alarmed at what this means for all patients in our region as well and the impact will ripple throughout across the country. Abortion is a vital health care that people should be able to access in their community.

“The only person who should have the power to decide if you need an abortion is you – no matter where you live or how much money you make,” said Tamya Cox-Touré, executive director of the ‘ACLU of Oklahoma. “Today’s signing is a reminder of the immediate threat to our community’s health and reproductive freedom, serving as a placeholder for a rapidly approaching future without access to safe and legal abortion.”

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