Oklahoma Senate sends 3 anti-abortion bills to governor

OKLAHOMA CITY — (AP) — The Oklahoma Senate voted Tuesday in favor of three anti-abortion bills, including ones that would criminalize the procedure in certain cases and cost providers their medical licenses for performing them, sending the measures to the governor for his expected approval.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed measures requiring physicians who perform abortions to be certified in obstetrics and gynecology, adding performing an abortion to the list of unprofessional conduct by doctors and prohibiting abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

In the case of the fetal-heartbeat bill, any doctor who performs an abortion after detecting a heartbeat would be guilty of homicide.

Embryonic cardiac activity can be detected using vaginal ultrasounds as early as 6 weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. Less-invasive abdominal ultrasounds can detect a heartbeat a few weeks later.

The measures head to Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who previously said he would sign any anti-abortion bills that the Legislature sends him.

Sen. Julie Daniels, a Bartlesville Republican who sponsored two of the bills, said the goal is to save the lives of unborn babies.

“This has been a hard-fought battle, and no one, single bill will end abortion in our state,” Daniels said in a statement. “But each of these measures represents one more step in our journey to defend the sanctity of life.”

There were 4,424 abortions performed in Oklahoma in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the state Department of Health.

Julie Burkhart, who opened a health clinic that provides abortion services in Oklahoma five years ago, described the bills as “radical and unconstitutional” and likely to be tossed out by the courts.

“I would rather they spend their time on restoring access to health care to Oklahomans than wasting time on restricting the ability of people to get safe and quality health care,” Burkhart said.

In the past, the Legislature has passed several laws aimed at banning or limiting abortion access, and courts have overturned many of them.

All three bills were passed mostly along party lines, with Democrats in opposition.