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Okla. Judge Who Upheld Admitting Privileges Law Known as Vocal Abortion-Rights Opponent

Okla. Judge Who Upheld Admitting Privileges Law Known as Vocal Abortion-Rights Opponent

October 31, 2014 — An Oklahoma County District judge who last week upheld a state law (SB 1848) requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges wrote more than a dozen antiabortion-rights measures while he was a state legislator, the Oklahoman reports (Carter, Oklahoman, 10/29).

Judge Bill Graves last Friday ruled that the law can take effect on Nov. 1. The lawsuit challenging the provision was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of physician Larry Burns, owner of the Abortion Surgery Center in Norman, Okla. Burns on Monday appealed to the state Supreme Court to block the law, contending that it will force him to stop providing abortions (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/28).

Judge Likened Roe's Effect to 'Carnage'

Graves served as a state legislator from 1989 to 2004, and he worked on bills between 1997 and 2001 that would have required state-mandated counseling for women seeking abortions and banned medication abortion, among other abortion restrictions.

Further, Graves in a 2001 article for Regent University Law School called the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade "a monstrous crime against unborn children." He added, "Since then ... America has exceeded the carnage of both Carthage and Rome -- and even Nazi Germany -- with approximately forty million abortions."

According to the Oklahoman, Graves was also reassigned from criminal cases to probate cases after his 2008 letter criticizing the Oklahoma Bar Association's Judicial Code of Conduct was made public. He said the code, which requires judges to perform their "duties without bias or prejudice," stemmed from the "proposals of the liberal, pro-homosexual American Bar Association" and are "not based on laws enacted by Congress or the state Legislature."

Brady Henderson, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, suggested that Grave's public stance on abortion rights could be problematic for people in his courtroom. CRR spokesperson Kate Bernyk said CRR has not asked Graves to recuse himself, although she declined to comment on his position on abortion.

Meanwhile, Graves said he was unbiased in his ruling on the hospital admitting privileges (Carter, Oklahoman, 10/29).