Senate Passes Bill Allowing Wrongful Death Suits Against Doctors Providing Abortions

Mar 5, 2020

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

The Oklahoma Senate passed a bill on Thursday to let third parties sue doctors who perform abortions for wrongful death.

Senate Bill 1728 would hold doctors liable if they fail to screen a patient for signs of coercion or trick a patient into having an abortion, and Sen. David Bullard gave unverified statistics from anti-abortion groups as evidence doctors are doing the latter in most cases.

Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice board member Gabriela Cano said some women do face pressure from intimate partners and family members to have abortions.

"But that’s why we need to put money into social workers who are trauma-informed and know how to walk people through all of their options without any coercion," Cano said. "So, the idea that doctors are doing this is completely untrue."

Senate critics of SB1728 say it is a targeted restriction of abortion provider, or TRAP, bill that will get the state tied up in costly legal battles. Bullard said several firms he cannot name have volunteered to represent the state pro bono and can be deputized to do so.

That caught Sen. Kay Floyd’s attention.

"Where did you hear the term ‘deputize’?" Floyd said.

"From the AG," Bullard said.

"So, you’ve had conversations with the attorney general’s office about a lawsuit based on this?" Floyd said.

"Thank you for the question. Yes," Bullard said.

"Did the attorney general’s office advise you that this is unconstitutional?" Floyd said.

"Thank you for that question. No, they actually did not," Bullard said.

As Floyd's questioning went on, Bullard said he "could not recall" whether the attorney general's office told him the basis for a lawsuit challenging his bill would be that it is unconstitutional.

SB1728 passed 37–9 and now goes to the House.

Eight of nine Democrats voted against the bill, along with Republican Sen. Joseph Silk, who wants abortion to be outlawed in Oklahoma and said it doesn’t go far enough to stop abortion.

Democratic Sen. J.J. Dossett joined Republican senators in voting for the bill, according to Senate records.