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Oklahoma House panel advances abortion bill despite questions about impact on contraception


Oklahoma House panel advances abortion bill despite questions about impact on contraception

Feb 14, 2024 | 6:37 pm ET
By Carmen Forman
Oklahoma House panel advances abortion bill despite questions about impact on contraception
Republican lawmakers in the state House advanced two anti-abortion bills from legislative committees on Wednesday. (Getty Images) (This image cannot be republished unless you have a subscription to Getty.)

OKLAHOMA CITY — A Democratic lawmaker expressed concerns Wednesday that a GOP-sponsored anti-abortion bill could create a state database of women who have undergone the procedure and ban emergency contraception.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including the Republican chair of the House Public Health Committee, expressed concerns that House Bill 3216 from Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, could ban some forms of birth control, such as IUDs.

After West vowed to change the bill’s language, HB 3216 passed the committee on a party-line vote with Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, as the lone dissenter.

Chairwoman Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, questioned whether part of the bill pertaining to contraception could ban intrauterine devices, a popular form of contraception.

“If we’re looking at preserving the life of the unborn, I think one of the ways to do that is access to birth control,” said Roe, a nurse practitioner.

After enacting strict abortion bans, Oklahoma GOP lawmakers seek more restrictions

West said he intends to change that part of the bill to target over-the-counter contraception that is not used under a physician’s supervision.

IUDs and most forms of birth control pills require a prescription. Emergency contraception, also known as the “morning after” pill or “Plan B,” does not.

West said he crafted the bill with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian law firm, in response to the Oklahoma Supreme Court striking down recent anti-abortion laws.

Oklahoma bans abortion except to save the life of the mother. State law doesn’t include exceptions for rape or incest.

West’s bill would allow for civil lawsuits against those who help a woman obtain an abortion and creates new requirements for physicians to report each abortion they perform. Women who obtain an abortion would be assigned a “unique patient identifier” that would allow them to be identified by the State Department of Health.

Ranson said it is “highly concerning” that the legislation would seemingly create a database of women who undergo abortions. West said he is willing to tweak the bill so the health department is able to collect some information on procedures but not “track” specific individuals.

“I believe that there is confusion in the bill,” Ranson said. “I believe that there is an opportunity for tracking women. I believe that there is a major privacy issue that we should be concerned about.”

On a party-line vote, the House Criminal Judiciary Committee also passed legislation Wednesday that would allow prosecutors to charge individuals who possess or deliver abortion-inducing drugs with felony trafficking charges.

The person delivering abortion pills, which can be used to terminate a pregnancy within the first 10 weeks, could be charged if they know another person intends to use the medication to cause an unlawful abortion.

An individual could face 10 years in prison or $100,000 in fines if found guilty.

Rep. Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont, said House Bill 3013 is intended to protect the health of women who might regret their decision to seek an abortion. She has expressed concerns that medical complications could arise if a woman takes abortion pills incorrectly should they be provided by someone who isn’t a medical professional.

“I stand again to try and protect the life of women who might take these pills and not know the repercussions of what it might do for them,” she said.

Crosswhite Hader has previously undergone an abortion, a procedure she talked about on the House floor two years ago. She said she regretted her decision.

Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, said he worries the legislation is overly broad and could lead to abortion rights supporters being charged with a crime. He also noted some other states are facing lawsuits over similar legislation.

The legislation does not apply to pharmacists or drug manufacturers who lawfully possess or distribute prescriptions for other medical purposes.

Both anti-abortion bills are now eligible to be heard by the full House.