New Lawsuit Challenges Two Oklahoma Laws That Delay Women's Health Care and Criminalize Doctors

(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a new lawsuit in state district court today challenging two Oklahoma measures which threaten to make safe and legal abortion even harder to obtain in a state with only two abortion providers.

The first measure bans the most commonly used method of ending a pregnancy in the second trimester—which could force some women to either undergo additional invasive unnecessary procedures, incur additional costs, delay their care, or even lose access to abortion services entirely.  HB 1721 mirrors a Kansas measure which was signed by Governor Sam Brownback in April 2015 over the objections of local and national medical experts, including over 20 area physicians  The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the Kansas measure in June and a state court judge blocked it from taking effect a few weeks later.

The second measure triples the state’s mandatory waiting period from 24 to 72 hours for all women seeking abortion services--making Oklahoma the fifth U.S. state to force women to delay constitutionally protected health care for at least three days. 

Both measures were signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin this past spring and are slated to take effect on November 1, 2015.

“Oklahoma politicians have made it their mission to block women from safe and legal abortion when they need it most, trampling the rights afforded to women by their state constitution in the process,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.  “When faced with an unintended pregnancy, Oklahoma women need high-quality care, not forced delays or measures that criminalize their doctors.

“Oklahoma women have had to go to court a shocking eight times in the last five years to protect their basic health and rights. This is simply unacceptable.

“We look to the district court to once again step in and block these unconstitutional measures to protect Oklahoma women’s health, futures, and lives.” 

From clinic shutdown laws—which have closed clinics in Texas and threaten to shutter abortion providers in LouisianaMississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama—to outright bans on abortion and mandatory delays, women in the South face innumerable hurdles when trying to access their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services.  Oklahoma women face many of these challenges, with only two clinics providing safe and legal abortion services in the entire state. Rather than focusing on increasing the number of policies that are known to support women and children, politicians in Oklahoma have spent their time enacting abortion restrictions that do nothing to improve women’s health and safety.

Today’s filing is the eighth time in five years that the Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged unconstitutional restrictions on abortion in Oklahoma, including a lawsuit filed last week challenging an omnibus measure that blatantly violates the Oklahoma Constitution.  The Center is also challenging the state’s Texas-style clinic shutdown law and most recently passed restrictions on medication abortion.  The state Supreme Court temporarily blocked the clinic shutdown law from taking effect in November 2014 and a state court permanently blocked the restrictions on medication abortion last month.

Autumn Katz and Tiseme Zegeye of the Center for Reproductive Rights and Blake Patton of Walding & Patton filed today’s challenge on behalf of Reproductive Services, a Tulsa reproductive health provider with over 41 years of experience providing safe and legal abortion to Oklahoma women.

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