National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Okla. Supreme Court Blocks Enforcement of Admitting Privileges, Medication Abortion Laws

Okla. Supreme Court Blocks Enforcement of Admitting Privileges, Medication Abortion Laws

November 5, 2014 — The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked enforcement of two antiabortion-rights laws that took effect on Nov. 1, the Oklahoman reports.

In separate unanimous decisions, the judges wrote that the laws -- which require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and restrict medication abortion -- will remain on hold until they are "fully and finally litigated." They noted that their decisions are not opinions on the legality of the underlying laws.

Challenges to both laws are pending before district court judges. The court cases are expected to take months to reach a conclusion, according to the Oklahoman (Clay, Oklahoman, 11/4).

Background

Last month, Oklahoma County District Court Judge Bill Graves ruled that the admitting privileges law (SB 1848) could take effect. Plaintiff Larry Burns, an abortion provider, and his attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights have said the law would force the doctor to stop performing abortions.

CRR attorneys have said that Burns, owner of the Abortion Surgery Center in Norman, Okla., has not been able to meet the admitting privileges requirement after applying at 16 hospitals. Burns performs about 44% of abortion procedures in the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/28).

The second law (HB 2684), also challenged by CRR, would require physicians to administer medication abortion drugs according to FDA protocol and ban use of the method after 49 days of pregnancy, which goes against common medical practice.

Oklahoma County District Court Judge Roger Stuart last month allowed the underlying law to take effect but granted the plaintiffs' request to block portions of the measure that would have made abortion providers liable if they did not follow the law (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/23).

Reaction

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup said in a statement, "[T]he 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."

Northup added that CRR "will continue to stand with Oklahoma women and their health care providers to ultimately see these sham restrictions overturned and ensure their rights are never determined by virtue of their zip code."

Aaron Cooper, a spokesperson for state Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), said Pruitt's office will continue to defend the laws, adding, "As we've maintained all along, the Oklahoma Legislature was well within its authority to enact these laws to protect the health and safety of Oklahoma women" (Hoberock, Tulsa World, 11/5).