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Reproductive rights supporters rally in Oklahoma following Supreme Court ruling

Reproductive rights supporters gather outside the Oklahoma state capitol on June 26, 2022, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Roe v. Wade.
Catherine Sweeney / StateImpact Oklahoma
Reproductive rights supporters gather outside the Oklahoma state capitol on June 26, 2022, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Roe v. Wade.

In the days since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, hundreds of Oklahomans gathered outside the state Capitol, county courthouses and inside churches to organize, march and protest. There was a major focus: what’s next?

At a pro-choice rally on Sunday outside the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, several speakers were candidates for public office, and they advocated for voting as a means to push back against restrictions on abortion.

Other speakers said Oklahomans need to take action in addition to voting, such as assisting anyone seeking an abortion. Sarah Adams-Cornell, an Indigenous activist in Oklahoma City, said that could mean defying laws like House Bill 4327, which allows anyone who performs an abortion — or who “aids and abets” someone getting one — to be sued for up to $10,000. Some lawmakers voiced support for criminalizing aiding and abetting, as well.

“And you can arrest me, but you can’t arrest all of us,” Adams-Cornell said to cheers from the crowd. “We will keep fighting.”

On Friday, Attorney General John O’Connor declined to explain what “aiding and abetting” abortion would entail. The law has no list of actions: it only offers one example, which is paying for an abortion.

A moment to grieve and a call to action

On Friday evening, reproductive rights advocates met at Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City. The packed event took a moment to grieve the high court’s decision and offered a call to action for those who disagreed with it.

ACLU Executive Director Tamya Cox-Touré, a leading abortion policy expert in the state, was one of the speakers at the event. She said she has been working in anticipation of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

“I’ve been doing this work for 15-plus years. Sometimes being the only person at the capitol,” said Cox-Touré. “I’m the person who people come to… and I don’t have the answers for you. I don’t know what comes next.”

U.S. Senate candidate and former Congresswoman Kendra Horn also spoke at the event.

“This is a long-haul. And we have to know that,” said Horn. “We have seen progress, we see it in some of the things that have happened. We also have lost some of that, but it doesn’t mean we should give up.”

The event ended peacefully with a call to action to start volunteering for organizations and campaigns, and also emphasized the importance of voting. Similar events took place in other parts of the state, including Norman and Tulsa.

How will Oklahoma’s laws be enforced?

On Friday afternoon, Oklahoma’s top Republicans touted their own recent spate of abortion restrictions, and finally clarified how the contradictory bills will be enforced.

“I promised Oklahomans that I would sign every piece of pro-life legislation that hit my desk, and I’m thrilled to have kept that promise,” Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said.

Stitt signed several abortion bills over the past couple of years, but many of them contradict one another. For example, two laws on the books criminalize abortion. One — the trigger law that went into effect immediately after the Court’s decision — threatens providers with up to five years in prison for performing one. Another passed this year threatens a decade in prison.

Other laws passed this year aren’t criminal punishments, but allow Oklahomans to sue anyone who performs or facilitates an abortion for up to $10,000.

A joint release from Stitt and O’Connor says the trigger bill will be in effect until August, then the law threatening a decade in prison goes into effect. The measures that mirror Texas’ law and allow Oklahomans to file civil lawsuits over abortions will remain in effect.

So, as of now, both the criminal and civil laws cracking down on abortion are in place.

Catherine Sweeney was StateImpact Oklahoma's health reporter from 2020 to 2023.
Kateleigh Mills was the Special Projects reporter for KOSU from 2019 to 2024.
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