Oklahoma Governor Fallin Signs Law Designed to Shutter Reproductive Health Clinics

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Politicians continue to ignore expertise and counsel of state and national medical community, deny women seeking to end a pregnancy safe, legal, high-quality care
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(PRESS RELEASE) Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed into law today Senate Bill 1848, a measure similar to others passed in Mississippi and Texas to shutter abortion clinics and make reproductive health care services more difficult to obtain.

The measure specifically requires a reproductive health care clinic to have a physician on-site during days abortion procedures are performed who maintains admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the facility—a requirement that is not necessary for the treatment of the fewer than 1% of abortion patients who experience complications, and that is difficult to meet because of many hospitals’ inclination to deny admitting privileges to abortion providers for political or other reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications. 

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:    

“The passage of this law continues Oklahoma politicians’ long history of presuming they know better than women, doctors, and respected national medical organizations, and it is women who will pay the price. 

“If this law is allowed to stand, it will further expand the massive areas of the United States where women’s constitutional right to safely and legally end a pregnancy is under siege by politicians attempting to make abortion nearly inaccessible by driving more and more good health care providers out of practice.   

“Women’s constitutional rights should not differ depending on where they live. And women’s access to safe, legal reproductive health care must not be subject to the political agendas of lawmakers, hospital administrators, or anyone else.”

Designed by anti-choice activists and politicians—not doctors—Oklahoma’s admitting privileges law is similar to others passed in Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, and other states to shutter abortion clinics statewide, leaving many thousands of women without access to safe, legal, and high quality abortion care.  Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) oppose hospital admitting privileges as a requirement for physicians providing abortion services, and medical experts confirm that abortion care has a 99% safety record, with less than 1% of patients experiencing any complications and even fewer requiring further treatment at a hospital. The Oklahoma State Medical Association opposed Senate Bill 1848 because it “would result in the Legislature and unelected bureaucrats at the Department of Health interfering in the physician/patient relationship and crafting more burdensome regulations that do nothing to reduce the number of abortions and may not reflect medical science or the best interest of the patient.”

Senate Bill 1848 is one of several pieces of legislation advanced by the Oklahoma Legislature this year to burden access to abortion care and limit access to contraception.  Just last month, Governor Fallin signed a bill which severely restricts access to medication abortion in the state, representing the third time Oklahoma has tried to restrict women’s access to medication used to end a pregnancy in its earliest stages in the past four years.   

Women’s health care providers and advocates are currently involved in two challenges to Texas’ unconstitutional admitting privileges requirement, which has already closed health centers across the state, while a similar law in Mississippi could shut down the state’s last remaining clinic. Admitting privileges requirements in Alabama and Wisconsin are also currently being challenged in court.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Oklahoma from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.