Abortion-rights protesters are seen at a rally in St. Louis, Mo., on May 14. Oklahoma's abortion ban is modeled on a similar bill in Texas. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
May 26 (UPI) -- Amid rising concern nationwide that the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to strike down the landmark abortion decision in Roe vs. Wade, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed off on the country's most restrictive law against the procedure late Wednesday.
The bill, Oklahoma House Bill 4327, which bans abortion at conception, was sent to the Republican governor's desk after it passed the state's House 73 to 16 last week and the Senate 35 to 10 late last month.
Modeled after a controversial Texas law, H.B. 4327 is enforced by the public, permitting citizens to sue anyone who is involved with inducing or performing an abortion for no less than $10,000 plus court costs and fines. Those who are accused of aiding and abetting such medical procedures can also be the subject of these civil lawsuits.
The law, which immediately took effect, includes exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies.
"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," Stitt said in a statement to The Oklahoman.
The Center for Reproductive Rights said it along with Planned Parenthood are suing "to stop this cruel ban and restore abortion access in the state."
"The cruelty of this law and this crisis cannot be overstated," Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of American, said in a statement. "At a time when communities are facing senseless tragedies and immeasurable grief, politicians have opted to use their position and power to instill more fear -- all while taking away people's right to decide what is best for their own bodies, lives and futures at every turn."
Stitt signed the law into being as Republican-led states nationwide seek to restrict access to the medical procedure. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization, more than 40 state-level abortion restrictions have been enacted this year.
It also comes as the Supreme Court appears poised to repeal federal protections for abortion with a high-court ruling leaked to the press early this month stating that the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade case "must be overruled."
The Guttmacher Institute states that if Roe is overturned, 26 states are either "certain or likely" to ban abortion.
With Stitt's signing of H.B. 4327 on Wednesday, Oklahoma is the first state to ban the procedure while the ruling's still in place.
Earlier this month, Stitt also signed legislation that bans abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which occurs at around six weeks and before most know they are pregnant.
Last month, he also signed legislation to ban abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade.
"The goal of the anti-abortion movement is to ensure no one can access abortion at any point for any reason," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Right now, patients in Oklahoma are being thrown into a state of chaos and fear. That chaos will only intensify as surrounding states cut off access as well.
"We will not stop fighting for the people of Oklahoma and for everyone across the country," she said. "We all deserve the freedom to control our own bodies and lives."
Abortion rights supporters rally at Orlando City Hall in Florida before joining the Bans Off Our Bodies march on Saturday. Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo