FAQs: What we know about reproductive health emergencies in Oklahoma

KOSU compiles a series of FAQs about reproductive health care questions. With conversations all around us about what is or isn’t legal following the overthrow of Roe against Wadewe want to cut right through what we do know. This guide focuses on reproductive health emergencies in Oklahoma.

Here are some of the questions we’ve been getting:

Does Oklahoma have exceptions for abortion?

Yes, but they are rather unclear.

Oklahoma law includes exceptions for what lawmakers call “mother’s life”: medical emergencies.

Oklahoma passed several abortion-related laws this year, including SB 612, which makes performing an abortion a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. Another piece of legislation HB 4327, opens anyone who performs an abortion or helps to have an abortion to civil liability. That means anyone in the state can sue them for up to $10,000. Both the HB4327 and the SB 612 have the same definition for medical emergency: “a condition which cannot be cured by childbirth in which an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of a pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness or injury, including a life-threatening physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.”

however, the definition is not necessarily clear for providers.

“How serious should a condition be?” Vicki MacDougall, professor emeritus of health law at Oklahoma City University law school, said. “Is a doctor’s statement sufficient? Well, lawyers will be running in circles trying to figure this out.

It is important to note that as of now there are no laws in Oklahoma penalizing abortion patients for the procedure. They target providers instead.

Is the policy of the Indian health service different from what the state allows when it comes to exceptions for abortions?

Yes. Indian Health Service (IHS) follows federal policy. Because IHS clinics use federal dollars, they follow a different policy.

Here’s Xavier Becerra’s statement after it Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was decided:

“At the Department of Health and Human Services, we are unwavering in our commitment to ensuring that every American has access to health care and the ability to make health care decisions — including the right to safe and legal abortion, such as medically assisted abortion. that’s been FDA cleared for over 20 years I’ve instructed every part of my department to do everything we can do here as I’ve said before we’re going to double down and use every lever we have to get the protect access to abortion care. To everyone in this fight, we are with you.”

IHS credits may be used to pay for or otherwise provide for an abortion when a pregnant person suffers from a physical condition, injury or illness, including a life-threatening physical condition caused by or resulting from the pregnancy itself, which the patient endanger life unless an abortion is performed or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

However, if a person becomes pregnant as a result of a sexual assault, she must report the crime and provide a police report to the clinic’s staff in order to receive abortion services.

This policy has been criticized by some advocates as a huge barrier to getting the procedure — since most sexual assaults go unreported.

What are some examples of an emergency legal for abortion?

Judges and legislators will decide in the coming days what is legal or not.

One of the bills – HB 4327, which opens up doctors and counselors to lawsuits – does say the measure does not apply to ectopic pregnancies. That means the embryo is attached somewhere other than the uterus; it may never be viable and may put the patient at risk of becoming infertile or even dying. SB 612that criminalizes abortion does not specifically mention ectopic pregnancies.

On August 31, Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor issued guidance to law enforcement regarding Oklahoma’s abortion ban.

It is typical for Attorneys General to advise on criminal law such as SB612 as they are the highest law enforcement agency in the state.

According to the guidelines, removing an ectopic pregnancy is legal. The directive also says doctors should be given “substantial latitude” in life-threatening situations, but doctors can still be prosecuted. It’s unclear what “substantial leeway” means at this point — and other than ectopic pregnancies, no other qualifying conditions have been laid down, so law enforcement has discretion.

The guidance also recommends that law enforcement and prosecutors contact the AG’s office if they seek prosecution.

I’ve heard that most people don’t support recent abortion bans, so is there a way to change it?

Less than a third of Oklahoma voters supports a total ban on abortion. Oklahoma’s bans make no exceptions for victims of sexual assault and incest.

Technically, the state legislature has the power to overturn these bans. They can change or reverse any laws that are not in the state constitution. Changes to the state’s constitution require a vote of the people. A good example is state question 788, which legalized medical marijuana.

Neither SB 612 nor HB 4327 made changes to Oklahoma’s constitution, so legislators have the power to repeal the laws. However, most current legislators are adamantly against abortion.

If a patient has cancer and decides she needs to terminate the pregnancy and undergo chemotherapy, does that count towards an emergency abortion?

We do not know.

There are concerns that this may not be the case, and that “emergency” should be an immediate life-or-death situation, such as an ectopic pregnancy.

There are two ways to get a solid answer to questions like this: the legislature can clarify the issue by updating the law, or the court can provide clarification by deciding on lawsuits.

To the best of our knowledge, no cancer institutes or cancer-related organizations have commented on such cases.

If I am a victim of rape, do I have the option to have an abortion in Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, there is no exception to rape or incest. Gov. Kevin Stitt said publicly he believes rape victims should go to full term pregnancies and then contact adoption services.

The only exception that Oklahoma law has is if the pregnant person “has a condition where abortion is necessary to preserve the life of a pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical ailment, physical illness, or physical injury.”

The closest states to Oklahoma to have abortions are Kansas and ColoradoKansas recently voted on an amendment aimed at restricting abortion – but rejected it by a vote of 59% to 41%.

FAQs: What we know about reproductive health emergencies in Oklahoma

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