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Okla. Abortion Restrictions Face Likely Legal Challenge, But Supporters, Opponents Dispute Outcomes

Okla. Abortion Restrictions Face Likely Legal Challenge, But Supporters, Opponents Dispute Outcomes

July 28, 2014 — Oklahoma lawmakers who championed antiabortion-rights legislation that is scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1 expressed confidence on Thursday that the measures would withstand likely legal challenges, while abortion-rights supporters argued that the laws will be overturned, The Oklahoman reports. According to the Oklahoman, other lawsuits have successfully challenged the abortion restrictions in the state in the past.

New Restrictions

According to The Oklahoman, one (SB 1848) of the new laws would require abortion providers in the state to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (Green, The Oklahoman, 7/25). The measure also requires the state health board to develop operational standards for clinics that perform abortions (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/29).

A second measure (HB 2684) would require physicians in the state to administer medication abortion drugs according to FDA protocol. The second bill was written in direct response to a state Supreme Court decision that struck down a similar state law as unconstitutional because it effectively banned all medication abortion in the state (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/17). The state's high court also said in the ruling that 96% of medication abortion is prescribed in a regimen that differs from FDA's protocol, noting that "medical research and advances do not stop upon a particular drug's approval by the FDA."

Lawmakers, Abortion-Rights Supporters Dispute Court Outcomes

State Sen. Greg Treat (R) said that while a legal challenge is likely, "I think we are on safe legal ground, and that it is very defensible, although I can't say unequivocally, because when it goes to a courtroom, you never know what an individual judge could rule."

Meanwhile, Amanda Allen, state legislative council for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the admitting privileges and clinics standards legislation attempts to make it harder for a woman to find an abortion clinic and as such, other legal challenges have said such measures place an undue burden on women seeking abortions.

She added that the new medication abortion bill does "not clear the constitutional defect ... because the highest court in the state of Oklahoma made very clear that FDA labeling is not intended to preclude physicians from using their best medical judgment." CRR was involved in the previous medication abortion legislation but has not made a decision on whether to challenge the current law, Allen said (The Oklahoman, 7/25).