News Law and Policy

Judge OKs Oklahoma’s Clinic Closure Law

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights first challenged the measure in 2014 and said in a statement they plan to appeal Thursday’s decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

An Oklahoma state court judge on Thursday ruled that a law mandating that abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals is constitutional and can take effect.

Oklahoma Republicans enacted SB 1848 in May 2014. It mandates that reproductive health-care clinics in the state must have a physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital on-site when abortion procedures are performed.

The Oklahoma GOP’s law would mandate what has been deemed medically unnecessary provisions that would effectively force many clinics to close.

The measure is similar to portions of a Texas law the U.S. Supreme Court will review in March. Meanwhile, federal courts have blocked similar laws passed by Republican-majority legislatures in Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Wisconsin, and Kansas.

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Attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights first challenged the measure in 2014 and said in a statement they plan to appeal Thursday’s decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

“Politicians across the country have made it their mission to cut off women’s access to essential reproductive health care under the guise of protecting their health,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement following the decision. “Whether in Oklahoma, Texas or elsewhere, clinic shutdown laws are unconstitutional and a direct threat to women’s health. Today’s ruling turns a blind eye to the very real harms that will befall Oklahoma women if this measure takes effect.”

Thursday’s ruling will not take effect immediately because of a 2014 order from the Oklahoma Supreme Court preliminarily blocking the measure while the challenge to its constitutionality proceeded. That order will stay in place while the appeal of Thursday’s ruling proceeds.

News Abortion

Legal Abortion Care Could Soon End in Oklahoma (Updated)

Nicole Knight Shine

Federal courts have blocked similar Republican-led attempts to ban abortion care in other states. The Supreme Court this year refused to review the North Dakota GOP's ban on abortion care as early as six weeks of pregnancy, as well as Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy.

UPDATE, May 20, 5:16 p.m.: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) on Friday afternoon vetoed the state GOP’s total abortion ban, according to a report from CNN

An unprecedented measure to make providing abortion care a felony punishable by up to three years in prison now awaits the signature of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R).

The GOP-backed SB 1552 outlaws abortions except to save the patient’s life. Physicians who perform abortions in other cases will lose their medical licenses and would be unable to obtain or renew a license.

The bill’s backer, Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow), reportedly said he hoped the legislation might spur an overturn of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

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The governor has five days to sign the measure before it automatically becomes law, according to reports. Her representative told the Associated Press on Thursday that Fallin is withholding comment until her staff has time to review the anti-choice legislation.

With no discussion or debate, the state’s Republican-dominated state senate on Thursday voted for the bill 33-12, as the Associated Press reported, with a handful of Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.

State Sen. Ervin Yen (R-Oklahoma City), the only physician in the chamber, described the abortion ban as “insane” and voted against it.

Officials from the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the state medical association called the legislation, the first of its kind, unconstitutional.

Amanda Allen, the center’s senior state legislative counsel, called on the Oklahoma governor in a statement to “reject this cruel and unconstitutional ban.”

Fallin’s signature on the measure could set up an expensive legal fight.

CRR officials have challenged what it described as unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care in Oklahoma eight times in five years, according to a statement released Thursday. Those restrictions include measures to impose a forced 72-hour delay before a person can receive abortion care, and to outlaw the most common method of second-trimester abortion.

Federal courts have blocked similar Republican-led attempts to ban abortion care in other states. The Supreme Court this year refused to review the North Dakota GOP’s ban on abortion care as early as six weeks of pregnancy, as well as Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy.

News Abortion

Oklahoma Republicans Move to Make Abortion Care a Felony

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Other Republican-held state legislatures have passed laws that ban abortion care prior to fetal viability or attempt to ban the procedure outright. Federal courts have so far blocked those measures.

The GOP-controlled Oklahoma House of Representatives on Thursday passed a law designed to outlaw abortion entirely.

SB 1552 attempts to ban legal abortion by making it a felony to perform or induce an abortion. The bill contains no exceptions for the patient’s life or health and would strip physicians who provide abortion care of their medical licenses.

The bill now heads back to the Oklahoma State Senate and then to Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. Republicans hold a 39-9 state senate majority in Oklahoma. The state senate’s next vote on the bill would approve changes made to the measure. The chamber passed SB 1552 in March.

The criminalization of abortion care is the latest legislative attempt to roll back abortion rights in the state. Should it become law, reproductive rights advocates would most certainly sue to have it blocked.

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Other Republican-held state legislatures have passed laws that ban abortion care prior to fetal viability or attempt to ban the procedure outright. Federal courts have so far blocked those measures. The Supreme Court this year refused to review North Dakota’s GOP-backed ban on abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy as well as Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The nation’s highest court in 2014 refused to review Arizona’s ban on abortion care at 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“The Center for Reproductive Rights is closely watching this bill and we strongly urge Governor Fallin to reject this cruel and unconstitutional ban” Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Oklahoma politicians have made it their mission year after year to restrict women’s access vital health care services, yet this total ban on abortion is a new low. When abortion is illegal, women and their health, futures, and families suffer.”

Attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights have challenged Oklahoma’s anti-choice laws eight times in the past five years, including a challenge to a law forcing patients to delay abortion care by at least 72 hours and a ban on the most common method of second-trimester abortion. A state court judge blocked the second-trimester abortion ban in 2015, but allowed the forced waiting period to take effect.