Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced Tuesday that his state has become the second in the US after Texas to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
"I want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country," Stitt tweeted after signing the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act into law. “I represent all four million Oklahomans who overwhelmingly want to protect the unborn.”
The Oklahoma ban takes effect immediately and prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which usually occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy.
Like the Texas ban that went into effect in September 2021, the Oklahoma law allows private citizens to sue someone who performs an abortion, intends to perform the procedure, or helps a woman to get an abortion after cardiac activity can be detected. Citizens would be awarded at least $10,000 per lawsuit.
The bill authorizes abortions if performed as a result of a medical emergency, but there are no exceptions if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
"These abortion bans will push abortion access out of reach for many communities who already face often insurmountable barriers to health care, including Black and brown communities, low-income communities, and people who live in rural areas," said Tamya Cox-Touré, co-chair of Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, in a statement. “We can't allow this law to take effect.”
Her organization is one of several groups – including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America – that have filed a lawsuit to block the Oklahoma ban.
The Oklahoma law comes after a leaked draft opinion this week from the US Supreme Court that it is considering weakening or overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision legalizing abortion in 1973.
The nation’s highest court is expected to hand down a decision on a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi in June. Several Republican-led states including Arizona, Kentucky and Wyoming have passed abortion legislation ahead of that decision.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the number of abortions performed in the state has declined steadily, from more than 6,200 in 2002 to 3,737 in 2020. Data shows 9% of abortions in Oklahoma were performed on women from Texas.
Before the Texas ban went into effect last year, about 40 women per month traveled from Texas to Oklahoma to get abortions. That number jumped to 222 in September 2021 and 243 in October.