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Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Bill That Makes Performing An Abortion A Felony

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, pictured here in February, has not indicated whether she plans to sign the bill into law.
J Pat Carter
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, pictured here in February, has not indicated whether she plans to sign the bill into law.

Oklahoma lawmakers have passed a bill that makes performing an abortion a felony.

NPR's Jennifer Ludden told our Newscast unit that the bill is the first of its kind, and an pro-abortion rights group plans to sue if the governor signs the bill into law. Gov. Mary Fallin has not yet indicated what she plans to do. Here's more from Jennifer:

"Under the bill, doctors who perform an abortion could face three years in prison, and lose their medical license. There are no exceptions for rape or incest — only the mother's life. Oklahoma lawmakers passed the measure with no debate. The only doctor in the Senate — a Republican — voted no, calling it 'insane.' "

That doctor, Sen. Ervin Yen, predicted it would be "declared null and void" should it be signed into law, The Oklahoman reported.

As Jennifer reported, "Abortion rights groups say the bill is unconstitutional, a direct violation of Roe v. Wade," the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

According to The Associated Press, State Sen. Nathan Dahm, one of the bill's authors, is hoping the law will be a step toward overturning Roe v. Wade.

"Since I believe life begins at conception, it should be protected, and I believe it's a core function of state government to defend that life from the beginning of conception," Dahm told the wire service.

The Center for Reproductive Rights sent a letter to Fallin, who is a Republican, asking her to veto the bill. "This measure is harmful, discriminatory, clearly unconstitutional, and insulting to Oklahoma women and their families," the letter reads.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has this recap of Fallin's history with the issue:

"Since Governor Fallin took office in 2011, she has signed 18 bills restricting access to reproductive health care services, including a Texas-style clinic shutdown law, a ban on the most common method of second trimester abortion, unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion, and a law that forces abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and display and describe the image. Each of these laws have been blocked by courts; in fact, the Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care in Oklahoma eight times in five years."

Thursday, the Senate voted 33-12 in favor of the bill, with three abstentions. Last month, Oklahoma's House of Representatives voted 59-9 to approve the bill, with 33 abstentions.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.