In a year fraught with fiery arguments over abortion, state lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would strip doctors of their medical licenses for performing abortions.
Senate Bill 1552 is attached to the rules for the Oklahoma Medical Board. It sets the rules about when the board can take a license from a doctor. Normally that happens when a physician commits a crime or an outlandish form of malpractice.
The bill’s co-author, state Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow, said Wednesday those standards should include legal abortion.
“When you see the number of the unborn that have been aborted since Roe v. Wade, I think it's been difficult for the faith-based community to watch that go on," he said.
According to The Guttmacher Institute, which advocates for reproductive rights, Oklahoma is one of 18 states considered very hostile toward abortion providers.
As a result, the Institute shows searches for phrases like "at home abortions" have jumped more than 10 percent since 2010.
The other states include Mississippi, Alabama, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, Florida and Texas. Texas is currently at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court case, Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, over whether the state’s abortion clinic laws are constitutional.
“I think it's in the public's interest and in the health of a woman's interest,” Brumbaugh said about his bill.
When asked if it was unconstitutional to punish doctors for performing something that was legal, Brumbaugh said, “We're just protecting the lives of women and the unborn women because we're dealing with criminal assault of a woman.”
Oklahoma does not consider abortion to assault or a crime of any kind under federal law.
The bill has garnered criticism from pro-choice groups.
"SB 1552 serves as an example of how extremists in Oklahoma's legislature fail to understand that abortion is a safe and legal medical procedure and has been for over 40 years,” a spokesperson from Planned Parenthood said.
Karo Chowing from the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice said the bill “represents dangerous steps toward criminalization of abortion access for women in Oklahoma, a right that is constitutionally protected.”
Senate Bill 1552 passed in the Senate on Tuesday with a 40-7 vote and now moves to the state House for a vote. It is the latest in a line of bills under the Capitol dome that target abortion.
Senate Bill 1118, authored by Senator Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow, makes an abortion performed when there’s the detection of a fetal heartbeat first-degree murder.
House Bill 2797, authored by Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, passed the House last week. It created a provision for state funds to be set aside for anti-abortion curriculum to be taught in high schools, including having pro-life speakers or groups make presentations to students. It now moves to the Senate for a vote.
Brady Henderson with ACLU Oklahoma called the bills “academic exercises” Wednesday afternoon, adding both Senate Bill 1552 and Senate Bill 1118 violate rulings set by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Legislators are using these to express disapproval of federal decisions,” he said. “They’re using them as wedge issues to distract the public from the real problems they took an oath to solve.”