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Abortion-inducing drug ban advances in Oklahoma legislature

The Oklahoma State Capitol
Jackie Fortier
The Oklahoma State Capitol

A bill that would make it a felony for non-medical professionals to deliver abortion-inducing drugs passed the Oklahoma House floor on party lines with a vote of 77-18.

Mothers would not be prosecuted for obtaining an abortion-inducing drug under House Bill 3013 from Representative Denise Crosswhite Hader (R-Piedmont). Instead, she said the bill is meant to target people who provide these pills to mothers, whether that’s through sharing the medication or delivering it through the mail.

The penalty for what is being called “abortion trafficking” could be up to $100,000 in fines, ten years in prison or both.

“What we’ve talked about is that we stopped all abortions in here, and we don't have them,” Crosswhite Hader said. “What has stopped is surgical abortions. What has not stopped is chemical abortions.”

Requests for self-managed medication abortions have risen since Roe v. Wade was overturned and have particularly grown in states with total abortion bans, like Oklahoma. The state, for example, saw a nearly 216% increase per week in self-managed medication abortions in Oklahoma through the telemedicine nonprofit Aid Access, according to a 2022 study.

Crosswhite Hader provided clarification on how the bill would be enforced if signed into law. She said she consulted with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, although enforcement wouldn’t fall under its jurisdiction.

The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics Public Information Officer Mark Woodward told StateImpact Crosswhite Hader called him asking how the bureau detects controlled substances in the mail. He said drug dogs might detect them, or packages could break, leading to an investigation.

Because the pills included in the bill — misoprostol and methotrexate — are not controlled substances, Woodward said the enforcement of HB 3013 wouldn’t fall under the bureau’s jurisdiction. He also said it might be trickier because drug dogs aren’t trained to detect those medications. Law enforcement would likely have to rely on things like broken packages and tips from sources in other states identifying someone who is delivering the pills.

Misoprostol and methotrexate help treat things like ulcers and arthritis, and the bill protects those uses. An amendment to the bill also protects contraceptives and medications like Plan B. Crosswhite Hader said intent in causing an unlawful abortion is what will define cases of abortion trafficking.

“If you look at the bill, in several places, it talks about intent. … Just like marijuana, we have some places where marijuana now in this state is legal, but we also have regulations where it's not legal, and that's where our law enforcement makes those differences,” Crosswhite Hader said.

Democrats like House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson (D-Oklahoma City) said this is another way to restrict access to abortion in a state that already prevents it unless it's to preserve a mother's life.

“This is why I keep coming back to the person seeking the medication because she can't get it under the care of a doctor unless it's under the law of what we have said is OK,” Munson said. “We're limiting again what a woman can do and how she can access care.”

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Jillian Taylor has been StateImpact Oklahoma's health reporter since August 2023.
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