Republican Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma signed a bill late on Monday that will ban the safest and most common method of second-trimester abortion — a move that women’s health advocates warn could “force some women to either undergo additional invasive unnecessary procedures, incur additional costs, delay their care, or even lose access to abortion services entirely.” This comes less than a week after Republican Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas signed a similar measure into law in his state, ignoring the objections of local and national medical experts, including over 20 area physicians.
“All of us who provide health care to women are deeply troubled by this legislation. These bills have no basis in medicine, and they are just part of an extreme agenda by politicians who want to ban abortion completely,” Vanessa Cullins, MD, vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “This legislation would prevent doctors from providing health care based on what’s best for our patients, which is dangerous and deeply disturbing.”
The bill, HB 1721 in the House and SB 95 in the Senate, is scheduled to take effect on November 1, making Oklahoma the second state in the nation to enact a ban on a procedure called dilation and evacuation, which is the safest and least invasive method of terminating a pregnancy in the second trimester. The legislation was drafted by the anti-choice National Right to Life Committee and is virtually identical to the measure signed into law last week in Kansas, in that the final version forgoes the use of accurate medical terminology and instead redefines the procedure using the new anti-choice hot phrase “dismemberment abortion”
Both bills highlight an alarming trend among conservative Republican lawmakers, which is to restrict women’s reproductive rights using junk science and intentionally misleading, shocking terminology to describe a medically sound procedure that is endorsed by leading medical groups like the World Health Organization. Furthermore, the bills “are written in a way that would significantly complicate the medical field, leaving abortion doctors scrambling to try to figure out what’s still permitted under the law,” Think Progress reported.
“The language is so vague that this would be impossible to enforce,” Dr. David Grimes, a clinical professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and an abortion provider who has been practicing for four decades, told Think Progress. “It reveals a lack of knowledge of the procedures that the bill proposes to outlaw.”
As Think Progress warned in January, these laws are the next step in a coordinated campaign to end abortion access across the country:
It’s clear that going after D&E is emerging as a top priority for the pro-life community. The president of National Right to Life published an article this week announcing that “we are determined this year to bring the tragic issue of Dismemberment Abortions to the public’s attention.” Anti-abortion activist Jill Stanek followed suit on her website, advising readers to “keep an eye out for the next big pro-life conquest: dismemberment abortion.”
Kansas and Oklahoma have enacted 47 restrictions on safe, legal abortion—a fraction of the more than 240 restrictions passed in all states combined since 2010. And they’re hardly alone: Since the start of 2015, Republican lawmakers in 43 states have introduced 332 new abortion restrictions, of which 53 have passed through at least one legislative chamber and 11 have been signed into law. In March, Arizona lawmakers passed a bill that would require abortion doctors to lie and tell patients that a medical abortion is “reversible“—all based on testimony made by one anti-abortion doctor, whose claim is discredited by scientific evidence and rebuked by the medical community. On April 6, Arkansas followed suit, passing similar legislation.
It’s mind-boggling to think that doctors will be required to unwillingly disseminate information that has no real basis in medicine, but rather, in conservative rhetoric and anti-choice propaganda. Equally frustrating is that these laws put female patients and their doctors at risk. The new laws in Kansas and Oklahoma do not even allow exceptions in cases of rape or incest, and doctors found to be in violation of the law more than once could be charged with a felony. This means that doctors in those states will be forced to abandon a common, safe procedure, for fear of legal consequences, even when that procedure is in the best interest of their patients. Similar restrictions are being considered in Missouri and South Carolina as well.
Meanwhile, just days before restricting a woman’s right to choose in Kansas, Gov. Brownback signed legislation making it legal to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. “We’re saying that if you want to that in this state, then you don’t have to get the permission slip from the government,” said Brownback, according to the Kansas City Star. “It is a constitutional right, and we’re removing a barrier to that right.” Brownback should be reminded that it’s also a constitutional right under Roe v. Wade for a woman to have access to a safe abortion, should she choose to have one. Less than a week after signing a law allowing people to more freely carry a concealed weapon in Kansas, Brownback—flanked by images of fetuses—tweeted that he is “proud” to be “protecting life at its most vulnerable stage.”
The hypocrisy runs just as deep in Oklahoma, where the very same state legislature that passed the latest anti-abortion bill also passed a law reinstating the gas chamber as a backup execution method. In other words, with the signing of the new abortion restriction, it could now be legal in Oklahoma to kill a person by gassing him or her, but illegal for a doctor to perform a safe abortion procedure on a female patient seeking to exercise her right to terminate a pregnancy. The gas chamber bill now also awaits Fallin’s decision.