Oklahoma Mental Health Professionals Must be Aware During Discussions of Abortion
On November 21, 2023, the Oklahoma State Attorney General Gentner Drummond issued an opinion and guidance on Oklahoma’s abortion laws. The statement comes after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on May 31, 2023 that S.B. 1503 and H.B. 4327, two pieces of legislation passed by the Oklahoma legislature during the 2022 legislative session, were unconstitutional due to limiting language.
Despite the Oklahoma Supreme Court determining that the laws are unconstitutional, the Office of the Oklahoma Attorney General maintained that the 1910 Oklahoma law prohibiting abortion continues to remain in place.
In his release, Drummond clarified how and when law enforcement should seek to persecute.
He stated that “Oklahoma district attorneys and law enforcement agencies should pursue criminal prosecution of any person who intentionally performs, attempts to perform, or assists with the performance of elective or on-demand abortion in Oklahoma, surgical or chemical.”
He clarified that prosecutions should not be initiated for “any mother for seeking or obtaining an abortion”.
However, he also stated that abortion is only legal under state law when the life of the mother is endangered and that Oklahoma law does not “contain independent exceptions for when the unborn child is conceived by rape, sexual assault, or incest.” Despite abortion being illegal in these cases, he stressed that law enforcement should focus their efforts on the rapist rather than on the mother.
Last, he stated that “Oklahoma law prohibits aiding and abetting the commission of an unlawful abortion, which may include advising a pregnant woman to obtain an unlawful abortion.” He further advises “district attorneys and law enforcement may consider pursuing a case, however, where a person has advised or encouraged a woman to obtain an unlawful abortion in some imminent way, especially if the third party has taken an overt or tangible action toward that goal”.
Oklahoma mental health professionals should be aware of possible legal consequences if they choose to give out of state resources to clients for ways to obtain an abortion. In addition, a counselor most certainly would be at legal risk if transporting a client to an abortion clinic out of state.
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