A pair of bills that would require abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinics where they perform abortions are working their way through the Oklahoma legislature, with lawmakers apparently influenced by a provision of the omnibus anti-abortion bill in neighboring Texas.
The house version of the bill, HB 2418, was passed in a 73-9 vote, mostly along party lines. The bill has been introduced into the senate, but would require a committee hearing before being brought to the floor for a vote. Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow), the sponsor of the house bill, said during floor debate that the bill “
adds another protection not only for unborn but for women.”
specifically cited Texas’ admitting privileges legislation as an influence for his bill during his testimony. Currently, that provision in the Lone Star State is in litigation and pending a ruling from at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Even so, the law has already had a devastating effect on access to reproductive health care in Texas, especially in the Rio Grande Valley.
The senate version of the bill, SB 1848, includes additional requirements for clinics that provide abortions, beyond admitting privileges. It passed the senate Wednesday in a 34-8 vote; one Republican voted with seven Democrats against the bill.
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Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma issued a joint statement after the passage of SB 1848, calling the legislation “dangerous” and saying that it “could severely restrict a woman’s access to safe, legal abortion in the state.”
SB 1848 appears to be based on model legislation drafted by the anti-choice group Americans United for Life (AUL). The senate bill’s sponsors, Sen. Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) and Rep. Randy Grau (R-Edmond), have a history of passing AUL-inspired bills in the Oklahoma legislature.
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, told Rewire that admitting privileges laws are at odds with best medical practices, and do nothing to improve patient safety. “They are nothing more than smokescreens to their real intent of restricting access to reproductive health-care services,” said Kiesel.
As Kiesel noted, respected medical institutions, including the American Medical Association, have weighed in against similar efforts in court filings challenging
such bills passed in other states. “If the true goal here is to protect patients, then we hope legislators will listen to the experts and not their political echo chamber,” said Kiesel. “The only way this type of legislation helps patients is if it is defeated.”
During the committee hearing on HB 2418, Rep. Jeannie McDaniel (D-Tulsa) read a statement from the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposing the legislation in part because there is “no medical basis for requiring abortion providers to have local hospital admitting privileges.” The Oklahoma State Medical Association also opposes the bill.
“We know Oklahomans have strong views on both sides of the abortion debate,” said Kiesel. “But I hope we can at least agree that women and their families should not have their access to safe health-care options limited by a bunch of politicians acting against the best advice of the medical community.”
SB 1848 can now be introduced into the house for consideration, while HB 2818 awaits consideration in the senate. However, because of the bills’ similar language regarding admitting privileges, it is possible that the bills could be combined in a conference committee, and if passed could be sent to the governor for signature or veto.