‘This Is a First’: Oklahoma Legislature Passes the Country’s Strictest Abortion Ban

The purposefully confusing HB 4327 bans abortions after fertilization. The confusion is the point.

Outside of the Oklahoma state capitol building
Oklahoma passed the country's strictest abortion ban on Thursday, banning nearly all abortions after conception. Jordan McAlister/Getty Images

Update, May 26: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed HB 4327 into law on Wednesday. It goes into effect immediately.

A few months ago, we warned you about what could be the strictest abortion ban in the country. Now, thanks to Oklahoma lawmakers, it will be.

Passed on Thursday, HB 4327 not only instates a total abortion ban, it also sets up a Texas SB 8-style enforcement mechanism with a $10,000 bounty on abortion providers and anyone who helps a pregnant person get abortion care. It would go into effect immediately once Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who’s staunchly anti-abortion, signs it.

“This is not ‘one more ban.’ This is a first,” Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said last week during a press call. It’s also not just one ban, but two overlapping bans.

Your confusion is the point.

The ban allows exceptions to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency, as well as in cases of rape and incest—but makes the insidious distinction that the victim must have reported the sexual assault to law enforcement. The bill reads, “A person shall not knowingly perform or attempt to perform an abortion unless … the pregnancy is the result of rape, sexual assault, or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.”

All this is moot, however, considering that another bill set to take effect this summer (SB 612) will make performing an abortion in Oklahoma a felony—no exceptions. Once in effect, the only two remaining abortion clinics in the state will be forced to cease operation, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Without a doubt, this ban will decimate abortion access in the region, which is already reeling from Texas SB 8, and force pregnant people to travel even farther for care—if they can afford to travel at all.

Dr. Iman Alsaden, medical director of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, noted on the press call Thursday that Oklahoma is a state where one in five children live in poverty, a Black infant is twice as likely to die in the first year after birth than a white infant, and 80 percent of incarcerated women are mothers.

Oklahoma also ranks third in the nation for the prison incarceration rate of people in their state. One of those people is Brittney Poolaw. Who will be next?

This post was adapted from a Twitter thread.