Oklahoma governor bans abortions

Oklahoma Gov. Kenneth Stitts

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s governor Friday used his emergency powers to ban all but life-saving abortions in the state.

Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said abortion services are now part of his earlier ban on elective surgeries and minor medical procedures.

His order allows abortions to continue only if they’re necessary to prevent serious health risks to the pregnant mother or medical emergencies.

Stitt said the rapid spread of COVID-19 has increased the demand for hospital beds and created a shortage of protective equipment required for health care professionals.

“We must ensure that our health care professionals, first responders and medical facilities have all of the resources they need to combat COVID-19,” he said in a statement. “I am committed to doing whatever necessary to protect those who are on the front lines fighting against this virus.”

Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust women, which operates an abortion clinic in Oklahoma City, said the governor’s order is an effort to limit women’s reproductive health choices.

 “This is an incredibly sad day for the people of Oklahoma,” Shesaid Julie Burkhart, founder and CEO of Trust Women, which operates an abortion clinic in Oklahoma City.

 “If a woman is unable to continue a pregnancy, time is of the essence,” Burkhart said. “It is important to be able to take care of people when they have decided that they no longer can or wish to not carry a pregnancy any further.”

She said the governors in Texas, Ohio and Mississippi also have taken similar steps.

When Texas’ governor stopped abortions, Burkhart said Texans, anxious for abortion care, traveled to Oklahoma City. Now Oklahomans and Texans are traveling north to the next nearest clinic in Wichita, Kansas.

“Absolutely, it appears to be a strategy during this great public health crisis to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma,” she said. “What it really does is it’s putting more people on the road because people are wanting to travel, they’re willing to travel to access this essential service.”

Burkhart said her organization is considering potential legal action.

Janelle Stecklein is the CNHI state reporter for Oklahoma. Reach her at jstecklein@cnhi.com.

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