Burns v. Cline


Primary Content

(REVISED 6.2.2016) Oklahoma passed a law in 2014 requiring that physicians providing abortions obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the facility where they provide care, or face criminal and civil penalties. The requirement would drastically reduce the availability of legal abortion care for women in the state.

Laws requiring that abortion providers have admitting privileges at hospitals are contrary to modern medical standards, and the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose them. These laws have no medical justification and simply deprive women of abortion care. The complication rates for abortion are extremely low, hospital admission is almost never required, and clinics already have procedures in place to ensure patient safety in the rare event of an emergency. Because hospitals are not obligated to grant a qualified physician privileges and often deny privileges to physicians who provide abortions for reasons that range from ideological opposition to abortion to the extremely low likelihood that patients will need hospital care, such laws have the effect of shutting down clinics.


Plaintiff(s): Dr. Larry Burns

Center Attorney(s): Ilene Jaroslaw, Genevieve Scott

Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Blake Patton


The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the admitting privileges law in state court on behalf of Dr. Larry A. Burns—a physician with more than 42 years of experience providing safe abortion care in Norman, Oklahoma—and his patients. Dr. Burns has been unable to obtain privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of his office, with many hospitals even refusing to process his application. Dr. Burns provides abortions at one of only two licensed abortion facilities in the state and provides approximately half of abortion services for Oklahoma women.

The admitting privileges requirement was scheduled to go into effect November 1, 2014. The trial court denied Dr. Burns injunctive relief on October 24, 2014. After the Center filed an emergency appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the court temporarily blocked the law while the litigation proceeds. On February 11, 2016, the trial court ruled in the State's favor, concluding that the law is constitutional. The Plaintiffs filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on March 17. The law will remain blocked until the Court issues a final decision.