Updated March 3, 12 p.m.
Oklahoma House Republicans passed a bill on Tuesday to add another layer of abortion restrictions in the state.
House Bill 1904 would add a requirement that providers be board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology. State law currently requires providers be licensed physicians.
The author, Rep. Cynthia Roe (R-Lindsay), was candid in debate.
"I know for a fact it will make a difference. I’ve had people come to me begging me not to run this bill because they have providers that this will affect, and they will no longer be able to do abortions," Roe said.
Julie Burkhart is founder and CEO of Trust Women, a nonprofit that opens clinics providing abortion care in underserved communities. She said the requirement is unnecessary and poses a potential problem.
"There are definitely OB/GYNs out there and in the state of Oklahoma who are OB/GYNs, but they are not proficient in abortion care. And so, there's a difference. Training matters, not just what your specialty is," Burkhart said.
Abortion is within the scope of practice for many types of physicians, and becoming board-certified in a specialty is a years-long, voluntary process on top of medical licensure.
Roe said another reason for her bill is to ensure women have proper care if they experience major complications during an abortion. Mandy Culbertson with Planned Parenthood Great Plains said the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has not asked for legislation like Roe has filed, and that medication and surgical abortion have extremely low rates of major complications.
"It’s clear the law is political in nature and not based in science," Culbertson said.
House Minority Leader Emily Virgin (D-Norman) accused Republican lawmakers of putting on a show Tuesday rather than taking up legislation on policies that could reduce the need for abortion, like comprehensive sex education, paid family leave and a higher minimum wage.
"Those bills never get a hearing because I guess they’re tough. But bills like this one, because they’re easy, they pass with flying colors," Virgin said.
Most abortions in the state are for women who have at least one child already. Virgin said that shows they don't think they can afford to have another child.
The legislature is considering more than a dozen bills this session to add to Oklahoma’s existing abortion restrictions. The number of abortions in Oklahoma has followed national trends and declined in recent years for reasons not related to new barriers.