Kamala Harris slams ‘outrageous’ Oklahoma abortion ban as part of post-Roe ‘war on women’s rights’

Bill has already drawn legal challenges

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 19 May 2022 21:01
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Kamala Harris sharply criticised Oklahoma’s “outrageous” new proposed total abortion ban, which passed the state’s legislature on Thursday.

“It’s outrageous, and it’s just the latest in a series of extreme laws around the country,” the vice-president said during an event on Thursday with abortion and reproductive health providers.

Together, with the Supreme Court’s likely overturning of Roe v. Wade, Ms Harris warned that conservatives are leading a “war on women’s rights” that will diminish women’s societal agency and reduce the privacy rights of all Americans.

“The right to privacy that forms the basis of Roe is the same right to privacy that protects the right to use contraception and the right to marry the person you love, including a person of the same sex,” she added. “Overturning Roe opens the door to restricting those rights. It would be a direct assault on the fundamental right of self-determination to live and love without interference from the government.”

The Oklahoma bill, which is designed to take effect immediately once signed, is the latest from the GOP-controlled state to restrict abortion care.

Previous laws passed this year include one banning abortion after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant, and another making providing abortion care a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

But Thursday’s law goes even further. It’s the strictest abortion law in the country, and the only to totally outlaw the procedure, directly challenging the right to an abortion upheld in Roe v. Wade and subsequent cases for the last half-century. It also contains no exceptions for rape or incest, and opens those who “aid and abet” abortions to civil lawsuits from private individuals.

The bill is modeled after a similar measure that took effect in Texas last fall, which uses citisens as enforcers to avoid legal challenges.

Oklahoma’s proposed policy has already attracted lawsuits, and has been fiercely criticised by health providers and abortion advocates.

Dr Iman Alsaden, medical director for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, told The Independent during a press call that the new bill is not a small government, “pro-life” policy, despite claims to the contrary from its backers.

It will force people to leave their communities to seek medical care, and doesn’t do anything to strengthen Oklahoma’s poor medical and maternal health outcomes, she said.

“Oklahoma is a pro-government, pro-control state,” she said. “Oklahoma wants to control your bodily autonomy and take away your basic human rights.”

It will also disparately impact Black and Indigenous patients. “This is not freedom,” she said.

Civil rights advocates also said the structure of the bill could impede medical providers’ ability to openly discuss health care with pregnant people.

Tamya Cox-Toure, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said the latest bill also is unclear whether “aiding and abetting” includes providers and advocates helping people make decisions about their healthcare.“We believe we have a First Amendment right to talk to people about their choices,” she said.

“We will not stop fighting for Oklahomans to get the care they need and most importantly the care that they want.”

Over the weekend, Governor Kevin Stitt, who is staunchly anti-abortion, defended the state’s push to restrict abortion in spite of already poor maternal health and child wellbeing outcomes in Oklahoma, in response to questions on Fox News.

Anchor Shannon Bream noted that more than a fifth of children in Oklahoma live below the poverty line, 71 per cent of SNAP participants are in families with children, and that Oklahoma ranks 42 overall in child wellbeing.

“Well, I mean, here’s the deal,” he said. “Is the answer to the socialist Democrat left to abort poor kids? I mean, that’s just ridiculous to even kind of quote those types of stats. We have a free market in Oklahoma. We believe that God has a special plan for every single life, and every single child. And we want everybody to have the same opportunities in Oklahoma. And aborting a child is not the right answer.”

Though abortion will remains a constitutionally protected right under Roe severe restrictions in places like Oklahoma, Texas, and other states have made it so the procedure is already functionally put out of reach for many people, doctors told The Independent.

Dr Maya Bass regularly travels from New Jersey to Oklahoma to provide abotion care at a clinic in Oklahoma City, where she sees up to 40 patients a day.

“Patients come to me and tell me that they’ve driven six or more hours to get there, it took them weeks to get an appointment because of the volume increase, or just time for them to raise the money to travel and to find childcare,” Dr Bass told The Independent. “It’s a lot harder to be able to confirm appointments with people because [the clinic] can’t promise them that our clinic will be open next week.”

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