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Oklahoma Supreme Court Blocks Two Anti-Choice Measures

Jessica Mason Pieklo

In two separate orders, the state's highest court blocked new hospital admitting privileges requirements and restrictions on medication abortions from taking effect while trials challenging their legality proceed.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked two recent abortion restrictions, granting emergency requests by reproductive rights advocates to block the laws from taking effect while challenges to their constitutionality proceed.

The state’s highest court first blocked an Oklahoma law that requires all reproductive health-care clinics to have a physician with local hospital admitting privileges on site when abortion procedures are performed—a requirement pushed by anti-choice activists that has proven medically unnecessary.

In a separate order, the court blocked a state law that severely restricts medication abortion procedures in the state by mandating doctors follow outdated FDA protocol in administering abortion-inducing drugs. The law bans all medication abortions after 49 days of pregnancy, which forces patients to undergo a surgical procedure when they would otherwise have the option of using safe and effective medications.

Attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights, in separate lawsuits, challenged both laws as unconstitutional. But rulings from two different lower court judges allowed the restrictions to take effect November 1.

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Tuesday’s orders mean those laws will now be blocked while each case returns to the lower courts.

“Today the Oklahoma Supreme Court handed the women of Oklahoma a crucial victory by protecting their constitutional rights and restoring critical options for those seeking safe and legal abortion services,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Time and time again, courts are seeing that the true motive behind these underhanded and baseless restrictions is to push essential reproductive health care services out of reach for as many women as possible.”

Tuesday’s ruling means Larry A. Burns, a physician challenging the restrictions who has been providing nearly half of all abortions in the state, can reopen his practice and continue offering safe and legal abortion services while the litigation continues.

“We are relieved the court has stepped in to protect women’s access to safe, legal abortion in Oklahoma,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “A woman’s access to safe, legal abortion should not depend upon where she happens to live. That cannot be what the Supreme Court intended when it has repeatedly affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to make personal medical decisions.”

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