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Oklahoma governor signs strictest abortion ban in the U.S. into law

New after second paragraph May 25 (Reuters) - Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt on Wednesday signed into law the strictest abortion ban in the United States, one that prohibits abortions from fertilization and allows private citizens to sue those who help women terminate their pregnancies. "I promised Oklahomans that as governor I would sign every piece of pro-life legislation that came across my desk and I am proud to keep that promise today," Stitt said in a statement, Oklahoma media reported. The Republican-backed legislation, which took effect immediately with Stitt's signature, makes exceptions only in cases of medical emergency, rape or incest. It states that it does not prohibit the use of contraception or emergency contraception. The Center for Reproductive Rights, a global advocacy group based in New York, has said it will challenge the ban in state court. Oklahoma is among the country's Republican-led states rushing to pass anti-abortion laws this year, anticipating that the U.S. Supreme Court will soon overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established the constitutional right to abortion. A draft opinion leaked on May 2 showed the court's conservative majority intends to overhaul federal abortion rights and send the issue of legalization back to individual states. Oklahoma's four abortion clinics have already stopped providing abortion services in anticipation of the ban. In May, Oklahoma enacted another bill that banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, as opposed to fertilization. Like the latest measure, it relies on civil lawsuits to be enforced. The enforcement provision in both bills was modeled after Texas legislation, which took effect in September and stopped clinics from performing nearly all abortions in that state. Oklahoma quickly became a destination for Texas women seeking abortions after six weeks. The restrictions in Oklahoma have now expanded a region of the country where there is little to no legal abortion access, forcing patients to travel to states such as Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado to end their pregnancies. (Reporting by Gabriella Borter and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Sandra Maler) ((daniel.trotta@reuters.com;)) The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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