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Oklahoma Was A Place For Texans To Access Safe Abortions, Now A New Bill Makes The Procedure A Felony

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Woman in hospital bed

In the wake of Texas’s new law that functionally bans abortion after six weeks, several other states are following suit with their own anti-abortion legislation.

As the number of avenues for abortion shrinks, more and more women seeks abortions in other states. But this recent legislation even furthers the challenges women face in accessing safe abortions.

Oklahoma’s ban in particular has impacted several surrounding states.

Women have been relying on Oklahoma as a safe harbor to get abortions, now a new law will make performing an abortion a felony.

Up until recently, Oklahoma has been flooded with women who were desperate to access safe abortions but were unable to in their home states because of restrictive abortion laws.

Dr. Christina Bourne, the medical director of Oklahoma City’s Trust Women, said of the women coming in for abortions, “We are essentially having to turn the vast majority of people away from getting abortions because we just cannot keep up with the volume."

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"We could be doing abortions 24 hours a day and not keep up with the volume that is demanded of us.”

Obviously, abortions are very time-sensitive, especially with politicians that are insistent on denying the right to have an abortion at the earliest possible moment, so the situation is already not ideal.

Accessing abortions in the southwest is going to get even more difficult.

With the passing of a new bill that will make it a felony to perform an abortion in Oklahoma, women will need to go even further to find a state that will not put them or the doctor performing the abortion in jail for 10 years.

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There is little hope at this point that the bill will be stopped, since the state’s Republican governor, Gov. Kevin Stitt has said that he would sign any anti-abortion bill that landed on his desk.

The only exception in the new bill is for circumstances constituting a “medical emergency” in which the woman’s life is at risk.

The true cruelty of anti-abortion legislation is that women will not stop seeking abortions.

The interim CEO of Planned Parenthood, Emily Wales, responded to the new legislation, saying, “We know that patients who need abortion are not going to stop seeking it, it's just going to get harder and harder for them to access."

"Right now, patients may be traveling a few hundred miles from home, five or six hours, they're going to add another five or six hours to get to the Kansas City area or to Wichita, and for some patients, that won't be feasible.”

This is the point where lawmakers will clap each other on the back and congratulate themselves on a job well done, but just because women may not be able to make the drive to get an abortion in another state, doesn’t mean they won’t be getting an abortion.

As Dr. Kari White explains, “there are some people for whom these longer distances are are just going to be impossible, and they will consider either other ways to try to end their pregnancies by ordering medications online or potentially doing something unsafe.”

It’s a bleak day in the drawn-out fight for women’s bodily autonomy and, ultimately, history will remember the politicians that put forth this sort of legislation as backward and cruel.

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics, and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.