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Oklahoma Legislature Passes Bill Making Performing an Abortion a Felony Crime

While many other state legislatures do their best to make abortion technically legal but utterly inaccessible, dishonestly couching their anti-choice restrictions in the rhetoric of “protecting women’s health” and attempting to walk right up to the line of what’s unconstitutional, Oklahoma isn’t pretending anymore. 

The state, which only has two abortion providers and has had eight of the abortion restrictions it has passed in the last five years challenged in court as unconstitutional, decided to cut straight to the chase and make abortion a felony crime punishable by one to three years in prison. The AP reports:

Oklahoma lawmakers have moved to effectively ban abortion in their state by making it a felony for doctors to perform the procedure, an effort the bill’s sponsor said Thursday is aimed at ultimately overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

The bill, which abortion rights group Center for Reproductive Rights says is the first of its kind in the nation, also would restrict any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a license to practice medicine in Oklahoma.

It passed 33-12 Thursday with no discussion or debate; a handful of Republicans joined with Democrats in voting against the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm.

The bill now heads to the state’s anti-choice Republican governor, Mary Fallin, who hasn’t said whether she’ll sign it.

As Amanda Marcotte points out at Salon, by unabashedly making a direct attempt at overthrowing Roe v. Wade, this bill flies in the face of the anti-choice movement’s dominant strategy in recent years of incrementally chipping away at abortion access — an odd choice given that strategy has been working pretty well.

It’s a particularly bizarre move right now, considering that the Supreme Court is about to rule on Texas’s TRAP law, which is justified on the pretense of protecting women’s health. “You’d think anti-choicers would be wary of ripping the woman’s-health mask off to reveal the true face of misogyny underneath until after they had a decision in hand,” Amanda writes.

You’d also think that a state currently facing a $1.3 billion budget hole that could lead to deep cuts to things like the public school system and health care might be wary of choosing an expensive legal battle over a law it knows full well is unconstitutional.

Header image credit: Feminist Campus

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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