House and Senate Republicans moved quickly to advance a bill outlawing certain transgender youth healthcare, but measures clarifying or carving out exceptions in the state’s near-total abortion ban stalled early in the legislative process.
Here’s a look at what state lawmakers did and didn’t do on healthcare policy during the 2023, which ended Friday:
The Big Impact: Lawmakers passed a bill barring Oklahomans 18 and under from receiving gender-affirming care, though the state attorney general’s office has agreed to delay its enforcement while a lawsuit challenging the measure is pending.
Senate Bill 613 prohibits healthcare providers from performing transition surgeries and giving puberty blockers to children and adolescents 17 and under. Physicians suspected of violating the terms of the law may be charged with a felony, face civil action and risk losing their professional licensing.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit earlier this month seeking to overturn SB613, saying it unjustly targets transgender youth and violates their right to healthcare under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Attorney General Gentner Drummond agreed last week to temporarily block enforcement of the measure, saying in a statement the pause will give the state time to “mount the strongest possible defense” as the case progresses through federal court.
Federal judges have temporarily blocked similar bans on transgender youth healthcare passed in Arkansas and Alabama.
Also Notable: Beginning in November, fentanyl testing strips will be added to a list of items excluded from being classified as drug paraphernalia.
House Bill 1987 aims to prevent overdoses and help users who are trying to break an addiction, said author Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City. Fentanyl overdoses killed 300 people statewide in 2021, according to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, up from 47 in 2019.
“Oklahoma is facing a serious addiction crisis and synthetic fentanyl is extremely deadly,” Dollens said in an April statement. “The hope of this bill is to save vulnerable Oklahomans who are struggling with addiction.”
Left Behind: Bills that would carve out new exceptions in Oklahoma’s near-total abortion ban did not progress.
Among the measures include House Bill 2088, which would allow a physician to end a pregnancy if the fetus has no medical chance of survival, and Senate Bill 834, which would establish rape and incest exceptions.
Senate Bill 368, which sought to codify women’s access to birth control, cleared the House and Senate but stalled in a conference committee.
In a March decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that Oklahomans have the right to a life-saving abortion whether or not there’s an imminent medical emergency. Abortion rights groups have raised concerns about hospitals providing contradictory information on pregnancy-related emergencies.