This week Oklahoma’s governor signed a Texas-style heartbeat bill into law. The measure is one of many pro-life bills the Oklahoma legislature and governor have worked to pass this legislative session.
The Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, SB 1503, prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, around the sixth week of pregnancy. Like the Texas heartbeat bill, this measure would give private citizens the authority to enforce the law against those who perform abortions or help a woman get an abortion. Those private citizens could be awarded at least $10,000 per abortion performed if successful. The new law makes an exception when the life of the mother is at risk.
The bill was easily passed by the pro-life state legislature. The state house voted in favor of the measure 60-13 and in the state senate by 33-11.
Following the signing ceremony, Oklahoma’s pro-life governor tweeted that he was proud to sign the measure and added, “I want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country because I represent all four million Oklahomans who overwhelmingly want to protect the unborn.”
Oklahoma is the third state to enact a Texas-style heartbeat bill into law. In March, Idaho became the second state to codify a privately enforced heartbeat bill, following Texas’ lead.
As previously discussed by The Daily Citizen, “The genius of the private enforcement provision is that it doesn’t allow abortion sellers to ask a court to enjoin state officials from enforcing the law, for the simple reason that no state officials are delegated such authority under the law’s provisions. Under the Texas version, now adopted in Idaho [and Oklahoma], abortionists have to wait to be sued by a private party, and then raise their constitutional arguments, and hope a judge agrees with them.”
Private enforcement provisions tied to heartbeat bills have had the effect of closing down abortion facilities because they do not want to open themselves up to liability. Oklahoma’s four abortion clinics are now effectively shut down.
Since the Texas heartbeat bill went into effect, abortion facilities in Oklahoma have seen an uptick of women traveling from Texas to get an abortion. Pro-life legislators in Oklahoma hope this new law will curb the trend.
Legislators in Oklahoma are still working on pro-life legislation they want to pass before the end of the session on May 27th.
Another pro-life measure we expect to see approved is HB 4327. This bill is similar to the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act because it also employs the use of private enforcement mechanisms, but instead of protecting life from the detection of a heartbeat, it would protect life from the moment of conception. If approved by both chambers, this measure would go into effect as soon as the governor signs it into law.
HB 4327 has already been passed by the state house, amended and passed by the state senate, and has now returned to the house for another vote. The measure is expected to be approved and signed into law by the governor before the end of the legislative session.
Photo from Shutterstock.