Sunday, May 01, 2022

Oklahoma Legislature Passes Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Law

The Oklahoma legislature on Thursday gave final approval to SB1503 (full text), a Fetal Heartbeat Abortion Law modeled after the Texas statute.  The law bars abortions once a physician detects a fetal heartbeat (usually around 6 weeks in a pregnancy) except in cases of medical emergency.  The ban is enforceable only through private civil actions for statutory damages of not less than $10,000 brought by any person other than a public official. An action may be brought against anyone who performs, induces, aids or abets an abortion (other than the woman on whom an abortion was performed). Once damages have been awarded in one action, a court may not award relief for the same abortion in subsequent actions. A court may not award attorney's fees to a defendant in actions under the law, and actions under the law are not subject to the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act. Governor Kevin Stitt is expected to quickly sign the bill into law.

On Thursday, even though the law had not yet been signed by the governor, suit was filed in the Oklahoma Supreme Court challenging the law.  The complaint (full text) in Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice v. State of Oklahoma, (OK Sup. Ct., filed 4/28/2022), which also names as defendants the clerk of courts in every Oklahoma county, alleges that the law violates ten separate provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution. Vox reports on developments.