Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 14:14 pm (CNA).
Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City thanked state leaders Wednesday “for supporting pro-life measures” after the governor signed into law the strictest abortion ban in the country.
The Oklahoma law, prohibiting abortion from the moment of conception with few exceptions, comes ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could leave abortion legislation solely up to the states.
“Building a culture of life in Oklahoma that recognizes the inherent dignity of every person requires the protections afforded by pro-life legislation and a profound change of heart,” Coakley said May 25.
“I encourage Oklahomans to pray for women in crisis pregnancy situations, for their families and loved ones, for families waiting to adopt, for fathers, and for the many pregnancy resource centers serving these brave parents. Thank you to Oklahoma’s legislative leaders and to Gov. Stitt for supporting pro-life measures,” he added.
Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, said after signing H.B. 4327: “From the moment life begins at conception is when we have a responsibility as human beings to do everything we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother. If other states want to pass different laws, that is their right, but in Oklahoma we will always stand up for life.”
The law makes exceptions for abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman as well as for cases of rape or incest reported to law enforcement.
The legislation also specifies that an act is not defined as an abortion if it is performed with the purpose of saving the life or preserve the health of an unborn child; removing the body of a dead unborn child after miscarriage; or removing an ectopic pregnancy.
Lila Rose, the head of pro-life group Live Action, applauded Stitt for signing “one of the strongest pro-life bills in the country.”
“As of tomorrow,” she tweeted Wednesday night, “every abortion facility in the great state of Oklahoma will be shut down. Thousands of children’s lives will be saved.”
The Oklahoma legislature sent the bill to the governor’s desk following a vote that fell generally along party lines on May 19.
Like the Texas abortion law, this legislation relies on enforcement by private citizens through civil lawsuits that can be brought against anyone who provides abortion or who helps a woman obtain one.
The law forbids civil action against a pregnant woman seeking an abortion and by anyone who impregnated a woman seeking an abortion through rape, sexual assault, incest, or any other act prohibited by state law.
It does not apply to morning-after pills or emergency contraception.
The law comes as a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization suggests that justices are preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. If that happens, abortion legislation could be left up to each individual state.
In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability — the point at which a baby can survive outside the womb — which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”
Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, bans abortion weeks before the point of viability and directly challenges both Roe and Casey.
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