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Okla. Judge Postpones Ruling on Admitting Privileges Law, Leaves Injunction in Place Until 2016

July 14, 2015 — An Oklahoma County judge on Thursday said more information is needed to answer questions presented in a lawsuit challenging an antiabortion-rights law (SB 1848), effectively leaving in place an injunction against the law until at least 2016, the Tulsa World reports.

District Judge Don Andrews provided both sides with roughly two pages of questions on the case and scheduled an evidentiary hearing for February 16-18 (Hoberock, Tulsa World, 7/10).

Background

The law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the statute on behalf of Larry Burns, an abortion provider who owns the Abortion Surgery Center in Norman, Okla. According to the lawsuit, the law would force Burns to close the clinic because he 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.

In October 2014, Oklahoma County District Court Judge Bill Graves ruled the admitting privileges law could take effect (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/27/14). CRR appealed to the state Supreme Court (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/28/14).

In November 2014, the Oklahoma Supreme Court temporarily blocked enforcement of the law, which had taken effect on Nov. 1, 2014. In a unanimous decision, the court wrote that the law would remain on hold until it is "fully and finally litigated." They noted that the decision was not an opinion on the legality of the law (Women's Health Policy Report, 11/5/14).

Reaction

Genevieve Scott, an attorney representing Burns in the case, said of the order, "I can see that the judge is taking the case very seriously." She said the next step in the case is to have the "full evidentiary hearing so there's an opportunity for all the facts to be heard before the judge." She noted that "laws like this 'are looking to shut down clinics and have nothing to do with women's health or safety'" (Schwab, The Oklahoman, 7/10).

Meanwhile, Aaron Cooper, a spokesperson for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), said he "appreciates the judge's 'thoughtful consideration' of the law" (Talley, AP/Columbia Tri-City Herald, 7/9).