Overview:

The Oklahoma law would ban abortion in virtually all cases, and subject abortion providers to harsh criminal penalties.

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Republican states have been pushing the envelope on abortion for decades. Although Roe v. Wade had established women had a right to receive an abortion, conservatives fought to narrowly define that right and to limit the time available for women to make that choice. But for decades after the landmark decision, the Supreme Court’s decision stood as guarantor of reproductive rights, allowing women to make autonomous decisions about their bodies and their health. Now, however, the contemporary court may have different ideas, with 30% of the members of the present version of the Supreme Court appointed by former President Trump, himself a radical Republican captured by Christian nationalist politics. Many political pundits now believe that the court stands on the precipice of overturning Roe v. Wade, and potentially throwing the issue back to the states. 

Abortion providers convicted under the Oklahoma bill could face 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

That is the context in which Oklahoma’s new restrictive abortion ban was established. The law would ban abortion in virtually all cases, and subject abortion providers to criminal penalties, including potential felonies. Abortion providers convicted under the Oklahoma bill could face 10 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

The bill has already passed both houses of the Oklahoma state legislature, and will now head to Governor Kevin Stitt’s desk for a potential signature. Stitt has prided himself on his anti-abortion stance and is likely to sign the bill into law. Oklahoma’s legislation comes on the heels of sweeping abortion restrictions across conservative states, including in places like Texas.

What makes this new wave of anti-abortion legislation different is that the Supreme Court is likely to gut Roe v. Wade in the coming months. Such a decision would be a boon for conservatives and Christian nationalists who had been attacking Roe v. Wade for generations. It would lead to complete abortion bans in the segment of states under full Republican control. This would deny women the right to full bodily autonomy, and make healthcare less safe for marginalized communities living in these states. But it would also create a larger divide in the American experience. For Americans living in red and blue states, a post-Roe world might feel like living in different countries. The cultural gap between red and blue America is widening, and it could mean a difficult political reality for millions of women living under Republican state governments. 

There is an argument being made that in the wake of the end of Roe, Democrats will need to be prepared to make reproductive rights a campaign issue. Samuel Lau, a spokesperson for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, argued that reproductive rights could become a major midterm issue, saying, “The anger and the outrage this could provoke, we believe it could drive historic turnout and cause a realignment at the voting booth.” But even if anger over reproductive rights keeps Democrats in power, the fundamental problem remains: the conservative Supreme Court. Without any White House support for court reform, its unlikely that the Supreme Court would be receptive to restoring the main tenets of Roe after potentially gutting the decision this upcoming summer. That would mean a split America, where blue states provide full reproductive rights and red states are incredibly hostile to them. And that outcome would be a loss for millions of Americans across the country. 

Marcus Johnson

Marcus Johnson is a political commentator and a political science Ph.D. candidate at American University. His primary research focus is the impact of political institutions on the racial wealth gap.