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Stitt signs bill criminalizing abortion in Oklahoma with no exceptions for rape, incest

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Office of Gov. Kevin Stitt
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Gov. Kevin Stitt signs a bill criminalizing abortion at the Oklahoma state Capitol on Tuesday, April 12, 2022.

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday morning signed into law one of the nation's most extreme abortion restrictions, making performing the health care procedure a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison unless done to save the life of the pregnant person.

Flanked by state lawmakers and anti-abortion activists, Stitt signed Senate Bill 612 at a ceremony in the Blue Room of the state Capitol.

"As governor, I represent all four million Oklahomans, and they overwhelmingly support protecting life in the state of Oklahoma," Stitt said. "We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country. We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma."

"Attorney General John O'Connor and I know this bill will be challenged immediately by liberal activists from the coasts who always seem to want to come in and dictate and mandate and challenge our way of life here in the state of Oklahoma," Stitt said. "The most important thing is to take a stand and protect the unborn and protect life in the state of Oklahoma."

"What we are saying here today is the intentional taking of an innocent life has consequences. It is criminal, and we are no longer going to allow the murder of innocent babies in the womb here in Oklahoma," said Republican Sen. Nathan Dahm of Broken Arrow, the bill's Senate author.

"It's a wonderful day. This is a historic day," said principal House author Rep. Jim Olsen, Republican of Roland.

"I want to thank the Lord for Him helping us with this and His heart being shown in this, that we value life because our God in Heaven values life," Olsen said.

The bill, which provides no exception for pregnancies caused by rape or incest, will take effect in August, barring any court orders blocking it.

Olsen told CNN earlier this month that he believes pregnancies should be carried to term regardless of whether or not they were conceived by rape or incest.

"The baby should not be liable for the sins of the father," Olsen told CNN.

The bill does not allow for criminal charges against a pregnant person who undergoes an abortion.

Reaction from both anti-abortion and reproductive rights advocates was swift.

"“The pro-life movement has always owned its goal of abolishing abortion in our lifetime,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, which helped craft the bill, said in a statement. “And by that we don’t just mean stopping late-term abortions, abortions after viability, or the infanticide of children who survive abortion attempts; we mean protecting ALL children from the moment of conception. That is exactly what Oklahoma has done."

"Oklahoma had the opportunity to lead the way in protecting access in the region instead of doubling down on cruel and harmful legislation," Oklahoma Call For Reproductive Justice's Priya Desai said in a statement. "These restrictions are rooted in white supremacy, patriarchy, and bigotry. The harm from this legislation will fall the hardest on communities already facing the greatest challenges in our health care system including people of color, immigrants, trans and nonbinary people, rural people, and young people.”

"It’s a very dark day in Oklahoma. We have been in the middle of a crisis for the last seven months — as Texans have been forced to leave their home states for care — and now Oklahomans may have to do the same. It’s unconscionable," said Emily Wales, interim CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, in a statement. "But know this: the law signed today is not yet in effect, and abortion remains legal in Oklahoma. We will fight back against these cruel bans in court because people shouldn’t have to cross state lines in secret to access care that should be available in their communities. Planned Parenthood has served Oklahomans for decades and will continue to do just that. While we have a long fight ahead of us, our doors will stay open, and we are here to provide care with dignity.”

The measure is just one of a bevy of anti-abortion measures making their way through the state legislature. Stitt has said he plans to sign all anti-abortion bills that reach his desk, saying he considers himself "the most pro-life governor in the country."

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.