Oklahoma Legislatures are Sending us Back in Time

Polis: Center for Politics
4 min readFeb 16, 2023

Major Kerr (PPS ‘24)

Major Kerr (PPS ‘24)

Abortion is considered a felony, women’s rights are under attack, and there is a group referring to themselves as abolitionists. Guess the year. Although it may seem like this occurred hundreds of years ago, this is now the reality in Oklahoma following the passing of Senate Bill 612 through the House on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 612 would make performing an abortion in Oklahoma a felony punishable with a fine up to $100,000 and a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. This legislation also does not consider rape or incest to be exceptions. State legislatures are putting women’s health at a severe risk in doing so, and Governor Stitt is failing to approach bipartisan issues in a logical manner.

Texas has also passed very similar strict anti-abortion laws in the last year, and the demand for abortions has been rising in Oklahoma ever since. According to Planned Parenthood Greater Plains, in just one year Oklahoma has seen an 800% increase in abortions. However, safe abortions in Oklahoma will likely cease to exist once the bill reaches the desk of Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has promised to pass every piece of pro-life legislation that makes it through the House and the Senate. This is the worst time for abortion legislation to pass for women’s health, yet it is the best chance that anti-abortionists have for potentially defeating the effects of Roe v. Wade.

The main supporter for the strict anti-abortion laws in Oklahoma has been the Free the States movement. This is a group of white, Christian men that are working to not only restrict abortion, but also abolish it as a whole. They see themselves at odds with the current pro-life movement, as they believe the current pro-life movement has become too secular, and no longer “Biblical”. They seek to create a moral high ground which stands upon Christian dogmatism. With a Republican-led House and Senate, a Republican Governor, and a huge population of Christians in the Bible Belt, this movement has had no problem gaining traction and building momentum.

This movement does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon, either. Another potential bill is making its way through the House and Senate. This next bill will be very similar to legislation passed in Texas last year. This law requires citizens to actively participate in reporting instances of abortion. There is even a financial incentive of up to $10,000 for citizens that pass on information to authorities. Although the women involved will not be charged as criminals, the doctors or anyone that performs an abortion procedure after six weeks of pregnancy face the same harsh consequences of monetary fines and potential jail time.

At this moment, Oklahoma legislatures and the Free the States movement need to be logical. Making abortion illegal will never fully abolish abortion. There are too many people in support of Roe v. Wade to satisfy both sides of the issue. According to a recent poll, 67% of Americans are in support of Roe v. Wade. In Oklahoma, there has been increased push back by pro-choice advocates in recent days. Multiple protests have been taking place outside of the capital in hopes of swaying policy makers away from enacting even more strict anti-abortion legislation. Still, it might be too late for pro-choice advocates, as Governor Stitt will undoubtedly go along with the abortion abolition movement.

Additionally, ending abortion only makes it more dangerous for women. Across the world, unsafe abortions account for up to 30,000 maternal deaths each year. If someone wants to get an abortion, they are likely going to find a way to get one, and in America people should be able to choose what is best for themselves. Rather than creating a dangerous environment for women’s health and women’s rights, Oklahoma and other Bible Belt legislatures need to allow for choice, and to allow for safety. States need to allow women access to abortion. There are people in this state that do not hold the same values as Christians, and it is repressive of us to expect everyone to follow one specific set of values. As a Christian and an Oklahoman, I recognize the sentiment behind the Free States Movement. However, allowing abortion access for women that choose to get one is not the liberal or atheist view; it is logic and common sense.

Major Kerr (PPS ‘24) is a Public Policy Undergraduate at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. This piece was submitted as an op-ed in the Spring ‘22 PUBPOL 301 course. This content does not represent the official or unofficial views of the Sanford School, Polis, Duke University, or any entity or individual other than the author.