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Oklahoma Gov. Stitt signs anti-abortion, ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary,’ ‘Religious Freedom’ bills

The Honorable Kevin Stitt, Governor of Oklahoma, center, was given a tour of Tinker Air Force Base and its various missions Feb. 1 by 72nd Air Base Wing Commander Col. Kenyon Bell, left, and Air Force Sustainment Center Commander Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland, right. (Kelly White/U.S. Air Force)

Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed bills to limit abortions in Oklahoma, make the state a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” and prevent the government from closing places of worship during emergency situations.

The bills were hotly debated in Oklahoma’s Republican-led Legislature, but had widespread support among GOP legislators.

Here’s a look at some of the legislation the governor signed Monday.

Stitt signed three bills that seek to limit the number of abortions performed in Oklahoma.

One or more of the laws is likely to result in a court challenge because critics have said the measures interfere with a woman’s constitutional right to seek an abortion.

Gloria Pedro, Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes regional manager, said the laws are designed to punish abortion providers, shame women and block access to safe and legal abortions.

“Politicians should not insert themselves into a person’s private medical decisions about pregnancy or between doctors and their patients,” Pedro said.

Stitt signed House Bill 2441, which would prohibit an abortion if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. In some cases, a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — before many women know they are pregnant.

Under the bill, any doctor who performs an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected could be charged with homicide.

Stitt also signed House Bill 1102 to revoke the medical license of doctors who perform abortions that are not medically necessary to prevent “irreversible physical impairment” or death of the mother.

The governor also signed House Bill 1904 to require that abortions be performed only by physicians who are board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology, which critics said will severely limit the number of qualified medical professionals who can perform abortions.

When Stitt was campaigning for governor, he vowed to sign every piece of anti-abortion legislation to come across his desk. On Monday, Stitt said he was upholding that promise.

“When I ran for office, I told Oklahomans that I would every piece of pro-life legislation that hit my desk, and I stay true to that promise,” he said.

As for the threat of legal challenges, “we’ll let the courts work out if any of those get overturned,” he said.

In 2019, 4,424 abortions were performed in Oklahoma, according to the most recent data from the State Department of Health.

Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women, chastised the governor for signing the “radical and unconstitutional measures.” Trust Women operates an abortion clinic in Oklahoma City.

“He is wasting taxpayer money and violating Oklahomans’ privacy,” she said in a statement. “The people of Oklahoma would be better served by government officials improving health care access for Oklahomans.”

These laws will take effect Nov. 1.

Oklahoma has become a “Second Amendment Sanctuary State” under a new law that took effect upon Stitt’s signature.

Senate Bill 631 by Sen. Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, and Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, seeks to preempt federal firearm laws.

“Any federal, state, county or municipal act, law, executive order, administrative order, court order, rule, policy or regulation ordering the buy-back, confiscation or surrender of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition from law-abiding citizens of this state shall be considered an infringement on the rights of citizens to keep and bear arms,” the law reads.

“This measure builds a wall of protection around our Constitutionally-protected, God-given, blood-bought rights to keep and bear arms,” Hamilton said in a statement.

Stitt also signed the “Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act” that aims to prevent the closure of houses of worship during emergencies.

The new law comes after some places of worship in Oklahoma and other states were forced to close or operate under certain limits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

House Bill 2648 bars government entities from closing places of worship, saying that “shall be considered a substantial burden” even if the emergency order applies generally.

However, the law wouldn’t stop government officials from imposing other restrictions on churches, such as capacity limits, mask mandates or social distancing requirements.

“This country was founded by individuals seeking freedom to worship in the manner they so choose without persecution,” said House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City. “I can think of nothing more patriotic than protecting those rights for future generations.”

During the pandemic, Norman set restrictions on local businesses and places of worship. Norman Mayor Breea Clark came under fire for allowing some businesses to reopen before places of worship, a decision she quickly reversed.

HB 2648 will take effect Nov. 1.

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(c) 2021 The Oklahoman

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