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Burns v. Cline

(REVISED 6.13.2017) This lawsuit challenged Oklahoma law S.B. 642, an omnibus measure that imposed various unnecessary restrictions and requirements on abortion providers in blatant violation of the Oklahoma Constitution. S.B. 642 was a multi-subject measure that—among other provisions—permitted warrantless searches of abortion providers.  S.B. 642 also included language that could have been interpreted to bring felony charges for any violation of the more than 140 statutes targeted at physicians and medical facilities providing abortion.  If enforced in this arbitrary manner, S.B. 642 could have subjected clinic staff to prosecution for posting a required sign in a font style different from that dictated by statute, or for filing a required form a few days late. S.B. 642 had been scheduled to take effect on November 1, 2015.

On October 4, 2016, the Oklahoma Supreme Court permanently struck down the law, declaring it unconstitutional under the Oklahoma Constitution's single subject rule. The Court also found that the law constituted an undue burden on a woman's right to access abortion, citing the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt.

S.B. 642 is one of nine unconstitutional reproductive health restrictions the Center has challenged in Oklahoma in five years, including challenges to the state’s Texas-style clinic shutdown law and 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.

Plaintiff(s): Larry A. Burns, D.O.

Center Attorney(s): Zoe Levine

Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Blake Patton at Walding & Patton

Summary:  This lawsuit claims that S.B. 642, which imposes four different sets of requirements or restrictions on abortion providers and state officials in Oklahoma, is a clear violation of the Oklahoma Constitution’s single subject rule. On September 25, 2015, the Plaintiff filed a petition asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to declare the law unconstitutional and grant a permanent injunction blocking its enforcement. On October 26, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a stay of the law, blocking its enforcement before it could go into effect as scheduled on November 1, with the stay to remain in effect through our challenge at the district court level. We filed our challenge in Oklahoma County District Court on November 3 and filed a motion for summary judgment requesting the court find the law unconstitutional and issue a permanent injunction on November 23. The district court denied our request on January 14, 2016. We filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on February 5.

On October 4, 2016, the Oklahoma Supreme Court permanently struck down the law, declaring it unconstitutional under the Oklahoma Constitution's single subject rule and the undue burden standard.

State: 
OK
Status: 
Closed
Owner: 
The Center