(Press Release) Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, asking it to block a law that bans the standard method of abortion after approximately 14 weeks of pregnancy. This law had been blocked since 2015, but earlier this month, an Oklahoma state judge became the first judge in the country to uphold such a law, paving the way for the ban to take effect.
As part of the same appeal, the Center is also asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to strike down a law that forces women to wait at least 72 hours after receiving state-mandated counseling before they can have an abortion. This law has been in effect since 2015.
“These two laws will devastate abortion access in Oklahoma,” said Julie Rikelman, Senior Litigation Director at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The type of ban we are challenging has never been upheld in court before because it prevents doctors from providing patients with the standard of care. Both of the laws are designed to limit abortion access for Oklahomans and are part of a national, coordinated strategy to push abortion out of reach.”
Doctors who violate either of these laws could be charged with a felony. Doctors who violate the ban could face up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Major medical organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose these types of bans, writing “these restrictions represent legislative interference at its worst: doctors will be forced, by ill-advised, unscientifically motivated policy, to provide lesser care to patients.”
Similar bans have been struck down in recent years in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky and Texas. Just last month, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court’s decision finding an identical ban in Alabama unconstitutional.
Mandatory waiting periods force patients to delay their care, pushing their abortion later into pregnancy and increasing cost and risk. When combined with the shortage of abortion providers and the long distances that many women must travel, patients can be delayed for days and even weeks. Major medical associations denounce these restrictions, and ACOG stated these laws “marginalize abortion services from routine clinical care and are harmful to women’s health.” Oklahoma is one of 27 states that have mandatory waiting period laws on the books.
Only four health centers provide abortion services in the entire state of Oklahoma. In addition to the two laws challenged in this suit, Oklahoma has passed many other abortion restrictions, including: a parental consent requirement for minors; a ban on the use of telemedicine to prescribe pills for medication abortion; and restrictions on when private, public and state health insurance plans can cover abortion services. These laws disproportionately affect populations that already experience barriers to health care, including people of color, immigrants and people with low incomes.
You can read the Center's emergency motion here.
This case was filed by Autumn Katz and Rabia Muqaddam of the Center for Reproductive Rights and Blake Patton of Walding & Patton on behalf of Tulsa Women’s Clinic—a Tulsa reproductive health provider with more than 40 years of experience providing safe and legal abortion to Oklahoma women.
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