Oklahoma has become the first US state to effectively put a stop to abortions after Governor Kevin Stitt signed a ban into law on Wednesday.
The law comes into effect immediately and bans abortions at the point of conception, with a few exceptions, including to save the life of the pregnant woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
State politicians approved the ban enforced by civil lawsuits rather than criminal prosecution, like a Texas law that was passed in 2021.
The bill was tabled and received final legislative approval in April 2022 by the state’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“I promised Oklahomans that as governor I would sign every piece of pro-life legislation that came across my desk and I am proud to keep that promise today,” Mr Stitt said in a statement.
“From the moment life begins at conception is when we have a responsibility as human beings to do everything we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother.
“That is what I believe and that is what the majority of Oklahomans believe.”
It authorises doctors to remove a “dead unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion” or miscarriage, or to remove an ectopic pregnancy, a potentially life-threatening emergency that occurs when a fertilised egg implants outside the uterus.
Abortion providers in the US have been bracing for the possibility that the Supreme Court may overturn Roe v Wade, legislation that has given abortion rights for over 50 years.
In September 2021, abortion in Texas was made illegal, once a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, which can be as early as six weeks.
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The six-week legalisation means expecting mothers can undergo abortion before heartbeat detection but the new law in Oklahoma means abortions are banned from the moment of conception.
According to Elizabeth Nash – an analyst for the Guttmacher Institute that supports abortion rights – the impact of the new law will be “disastrous for Oklahomans”.
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“It will also have severe ripple effects, especially for Texas patients who had been travelling to Oklahoma in large numbers after the Texas six-week ban went into effect in September,” she said.
The ban will also be challenged in state court by a New York-based advocacy group, The Centre for Reproductive Rights.