OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Attorney General Gentner Drummond issued a formal opinion Tuesday explaining that Oklahoma law does not allow pregnant women to be punished for seeking, performing or self-inducing an abortion to intentionally terminate their pregnancy.
The opinion was requested by four state senators and two state representatives: Sen. Warren Hamilton, Sen. George Burns, Sen. Shane Jett, Sen. Nathan Dahm, Rep. Tom Gann, and Rep. David Smith.
“Oklahoma law does not allow the punishment of pregnant women attempting an abortion,” the opinion states. “The Legislature has repeatedly made this clear and just last year, repealed the one law that would have expressly allowed such a prosecution.”
The AG’s opinion goes on to say that while Oklahoma law does not allow for pregnant women to be prosecuted, abortion is legally prohibited throughout pregnancy except to save the life of the mother.
The opinion notes that historically, in Oklahoma and nationwide, pregnant women have not been prosecuted for seeking, obtaining or inducing an abortion.
Drummond also issued updated guidance to Oklahoma law enforcement agencies and district attorneys regarding the state’s abortion laws.
Drummond’s updated guidance emphasizes that criminal prosecution should be pursued only for those who intentionally perform or assist with an ‘elective or on-demand abortion’ in Oklahoma, not for a life-saving abortion – saying the law protects the judgment of medical professionals in making such a determination.
“Medical doctors, in particular, should be given substantial leeway to treat pregnant women experiencing life-threatening or emergency physical conditions, using their reasoned medical judgment, so long as they are not unnecessarily terminating the life of the unborn child or intentionally abusing their position to facilitate elective abortions,” Drummond wrote in the guidance.
The memo comes after the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decisions earlier this year in OCRJ v. Drummond and in OCRJ v. Oklahoma, when Oklahoma’s two recent civil abortion statutes were declared unconstitutional due to overly narrow language regarding exceptions when a mother’s life is at risk.
Abortion providers stopped performing the procedure in Oklahoma in May 2022 after Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law what was then the strictest abortion ban in the country. About a month later, the U.S. Supreme Court stripped away women’s constitutional protections for abortion, which led to abortion bans in more than 20 states.
The number of abortions performed in Oklahoma immediately dropped dramatically, falling from about 4,145 in 2021 to 898 in 2022, according to statistics from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. In at least 66 cases in 2022, the abortion was necessary to avert the death of the mother, the statistics show.
Abortion statistics for 2023 are not yet available, a health department spokeswoman said.