April 9, 2015 — The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday voted 37-4 to pass a bill (HB 1721) that would prohibit physicians from performing a certain abortion procedure, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The bill now heads to Gov. Mary Fallin (R) for consideration. According to the AP/Chronicle, Fallin has not indicated whether she will sign the measure, although she has supported antiabortion-rights bills in the past.
If Fallin approves the measure, Oklahoma would become the second state in the nation to adopt such a ban. Kansas was the first to do so, and lawmakers have also proposed similar bills in Missouri (HB 920) and South Carolina (S 531) (Murphy, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/8). The bills are based on language provided by the National Right to Life Committee.
Abortion-rights opponents say the measure would ban a procedure called dilation and evacuation. They are calling the procedure "dismemberment abortion," which physicians and supporters of abortion rights say is an incendiary and misleading phrase (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/2). According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the method accounted for about 5% of the approximately 5,000 abortions performed in the state in 2013 (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/8). Physicians use the method in about 8% to 9% of abortions across the U.S. (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/8).
Under the Oklahoma measure, physicians who perform the procedure could face a $10,000 fine and up to two years in prison. The bill includes an exception for cases of serious risk to a woman's health (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/2).
Planned Parenthood of the Heartland spokesperson Angie Remington said the bill would interfere with the ability of a woman and her doctor to have "every medical option available" for abortions. Abortion-rights supporters have said the dilation and evacuation procedure is often the safest option for women having abortions later in pregnancy, according to the AP/Chronicle (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/8).
Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, said the measure "is a huge overstep by politicians into the medical practice" (Herskovitz, Reuters, 4/9).