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Okla. Judge Temporarily Blocks Law Banning Abortion Procedure, Leaves Mandatory Delay Law in Place

Okla. Judge Temporarily Blocks Law Banning Abortion Procedure, Leaves Mandatory Delay Law in Place

October 15, 2015 — An Oklahoma district judge on Wednesday issued a temporary injunction against a law (HB 1721) banning a certain abortion procedure, but let stand another law (HB 1409) that extends the mandatory delay before abortions, the AP/New York Times reports.

According to the AP/Times, the two laws were scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 1. Under the ruling, the parties will have three months to prepare briefs in the case, and the temporary injunction will remain in place until there is a full hearing on the lawsuit (AP/New York Times, 10/14).

Background

HB 1721 prohibits physicians from performing a certain abortion procedure. Under the law, physicians who perform the procedure could face a $10,000 fine and up to two years in prison. The law includes an exceedingly narrow exception for cases of grave risk to a woman's health.

HB 1409 imposes a 72-hour mandatory delay before abortions. Further, the legislation allows doctors to refuse to perform abortions if they have ethical, moral or religious objections to the procedure. The law also institutes additional reporting requirements for providers.

Earlier this month, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of a Tulsa, Okla., abortion clinic, challenging the two laws. CRR filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Tulsa-based Reproductive Services clinic. According to the lawsuit, Reproductive Services is the only licensed abortion clinic that provides second-trimester abortions in Oklahoma, and it provides reproductive health care services to women in Oklahoma, "Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Texas."

The lawsuit argues that the laws violate the constitutional rights of women in the state. Further, the complaint said the laws also violate the state constitutional ban on special laws because they are only applicable to women seeking abortions and their providers (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/5).

Details of Hearing

District Judge Patricia Parrish issued a temporary injunction against HB 1721 but did not delay enforcement of HB 1409. She noted that at least three other states -- including Missouri, South Dakota and Utah -- enforce 72-hour mandatory delays and that several states have 48-hour mandatory delays.

During the hearing, CRR attorney Autumn Katz argued that the 48-hour delay could force women to wait up to an additional week before an abortion because clinics only are open on certain days of the week (AP/New York Times, 10/14). She also contested claims made by Mithun Mansinghani, deputy solicitor general for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), who said women have alternatives to the abortion procedure banned under HB 1721. According to Katz, none of the state-proposed options would offer women appropriate abortion care (Hoberock, Tulsa World, 10/15).

Comments

Katz said, "We are very pleased that the court enjoined, on a temporary basis, the ... ban which would have prohibited the most common method of performing a second-trimester abortion." She added, "It was a completely unprecedented restriction on abortion access" (Schwab, The Oklahoman, 10/14).

Katz also noted that CRR over the past eight years has successfully blocked six of at least 19 abortion restrictions that have been approved by the Oklahoma Legislature. "I think it's quite clear from the onslaught of restrictions on abortion that the Oklahoma Legislature has passed over the last few years ... that their ultimate goal is to chip away at abortion until there is absolutely no access to abortion in this state," she said.

According to Katz, CRR has not yet decided whether to appeal the decision on HB 1409 (AP/New York Times, 10/14).

Meanwhile, Aaron Cooper, a spokesperson for Pruitt, said the state was considering whether to appeal the decision on HB 1721 (Tulsa World, 10/15).