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Oklahoma governor signs bill banning abortions after 20 weeks

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin [official profile] on Tuesday signed into law [press release] House Bill 1888 [materials], prohibiting abortions [JURIST news archive] after 20 weeks. The law allows abortions past the 20-week mark only in certain extenuating circumstances where the mother faces death or serious injury. The legislation is based on evidence suggesting that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks [Reuters report] and would require doctors to measure the age of a fetus before performing an abortion. A doctor who performs an abortion in violation of the time limit would be subject to criminal prosecution for a felony, but there would be no penalty for the woman undergoing the procedure. The bill includes additional provisions allowing civil suits to be filed for "actual damages" against the doctor by a woman upon whom an abortion is attempted or performed or by the father of the unborn child. Fallin also signed Senate Bill 547 [materials], according to which women can only receive coverage for elective abortions from health insurance providers through the payment of a supplemental fee. According to the bill, non-elective abortions only extend to live-saving abortions, not abortions sought to due incest, rape or medical conditions [Tulsa World report]. This legislation is reportedly intended to prevent insurance subscribers from unwittingly subsidizing abortions. "I believe in the sanctity of human life and the responsibility of our lawmakers to protect life," said Governor Fallin. "Together, these two pieces of legislation will expand protections for unborn children and ensure that Oklahomans are not forced to unknowingly or unwillingly help to pay for procedures that run contrary to their values."

Oklahoma becomes the fourth state to ban abortions after the 20-week mark, following Idaho, Kansas and Nebraska [JURIST reports]. Earlier this month, the Alabama House of Representatives voted 69-19 to approve a bill that would ban abortion [JURIST news report] after 20 weeks of gestation, except in cases where the mother's life is at risk or she faces serious injury. Also in April, the Ohio Senate approved a bill [JURIST report] that would limit the availability of abortions after 20 weeks. The Iowa and Missouri [JURIST reports] Houses of Representatives have also approved similar legislation. In March, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard signed into law [JURIST report] a bill requiring women to seek counseling at a pregnancy center and wait three days before obtaining an abortion.

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