Oklahoma Supreme Court Permanently Blocks State Law Criminalizing Women’s Health Care Providers

Measure would have allowed warrantless searches of abortion providers and felony charges for administrative errors

(PRESS RELEASE) The Oklahoma Supreme Court today permanently blocked an omnibus measure that targeted women’s health care providers with onerous criminal penalties simply because they provide abortion services.

SB 642 contains four provisions, including one which permits unannounced, warrantless searches of abortion providers.  The measure also includes language that could be interpreted to allow authorities to bring felony charges for any violation of the more than 140 existing statutes targeted at physicians and medical facilities providing abortion.  If enforced in this draconian manner, S.B. 642 could subject clinic staff to prosecution for violations as minor as posting a required sign in a font style different from that dictated by statute or filing forms a few days late.

This is the second time in a year that the Oklahoma Supreme Court has blocked this measure from taking effect. 

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

“Today’s decision is a critical victory for Oklahoma women and their doctors, who will no longer face the threat of criminal prosecution simply for providing safe and legal health care to their patients.                                                                                                                     

“This law was nothing but a cynical attack on women’s health and rights by unjustly targeting their trusted health care providers. 

“We will continue to stand with doctors and women in Oklahoma and everywhere they are threatened by politicians determined to push women’s right to essential health care out of reach.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care in Oklahoma eight times in four years, including a measure which forces women to delay constitutionally protected health care by at least 72 hours and a ban on the most common method of second trimester abortion.  A state court judge blocked the ban last year, but allowed the waiting period to take effect.  The Center is also challenging the state’s Texas-style clinic shutdown law and the state’s most recently passed restrictions on medication abortion.  The Center has a 100% success rate for concluded cases challenging Oklahoma restrictions on reproductive health care services.

This challenge was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Blake Patton of Walding & Patton on behalf of Larry A. Burns, D.O, a physician with over 42 years of experience providing safe abortion care in Norman, Oklahoma. 

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