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Abortion Shaping up to be Major Issue for Rest of Oklahoma Legislative Session


Measures classifying abortion as homicide and banning the procedure outright were not heard before the Oklahoma legislature’s first deadline, but several bills to restrict it are still alive.

Those include a bill banning abortion after a heartbeat can be detected at roughly six weeks, one to strip doctors of their licenses if they perform the procedure and one letting third parties sue doctors for wrongful death.

Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat indicated last month that he wants to get something passed.

"So, we have a lot of vehicles out there. I’m absolutely committed to protecting unborn life," Treat said.

Julie Burkhart is the founder and CEO of Trust Women, a nonprofit that opens clinics in underserved communities. Burkhart said passing additional restrictions doesn’t mean women won’t get abortions in Oklahoma.

"It means that they’re probably going to get it in an unsafe manner or they’re going to go on to have lives that might not be as productive and fulfilling in society and for society as they could have been," Burkhart said.

"I hope that people would be able to look at that and see that the women who are coming to see us are people’s sisters, aunts, moms, and that 70% of the women that come to us in our Oklahoma City clinic are already mothers," Burkhart said.

In a committee hearing earlier in the session, one lawmaker estimated there are just 10 doctors in the state who provide abortion.

Last session, three abortion bills made it out of committee, with one signed into law. It requires doctors to tell patients medication abortions can be reversed.

That claim is unproven, and a lawsuit has blocked that law.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.