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CRR Files Suit Challenging Okla. Laws Restricting Abortion Access

October 5, 2015 — The Center for Reproductive Rights last week filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of a Tulsa, Okla., abortion clinic, challenging two state laws that restrict abortion access, AP/KRMG reports.

District Judge Patricia Parrish scheduled a hearing for Oct. 14 to decide whether to grant a temporary injunction blocking the measures from taking effect (Talley, AP/KRMG, 10/2).

Background

One of the laws (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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/4).

Meanwhile, the second law (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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/14).

Both laws are scheduled to take effect Nov. 1.

Lawsuit Details

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. The lawsuit notes that the clinic provides reproductive health care to women in Oklahoma, "as well as women from Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Texas."

The lawsuit argues that the measures violate the constitutional rights of women in the state. "These acts, when viewed against the backdrop of Oklahoma's comprehensive statutory scheme regulating and restricting access to abortion, serve no purpose other than to block access to abortion and jeopardize women's health and well-being," the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, the laws also violate the state constitutional ban on special laws because they are only applicable to women seeking abortions and their providers (AP/KRMG, 10/2).

The lawsuit states that the combination of the abortion procedure ban, "which threatens to eliminate access to second-trimester abortions, and the mandatory waiting period, which will push women later into pregnancy, when access is more restricted and abortion procedures are more expensive and more time-consuming, may lead women to seek illegal or self-induced abortions, both of which carry significantly greater health risk than obtaining a legal abortion from a medical professional."

According to the complaint, only four other states have enacted a 72-hour mandatory delay. Meanwhile, it states that "only one other state, Kansas ... has enacted a similar ban [to HB 1721], and that law has been enjoined by a state trial court."

Comments

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup said, "Oklahoma politicians have made it their mission to block women from safe and legal abortion when they need it most, trampling the rights afforded to women by their state constitution in the process." She added, "When faced with an unintended pregnancy, Oklahoma women need high-quality care, not forced delays or measures that criminalize their doctors."

Northup also noted that "Oklahoma women have had to go to court a shocking eight times in the last five years to protect their basic health rights," adding, "This is simply unacceptable. We look to the district court to once again step in and block these unconstitutional measures to protect Oklahoma women's health, futures and lives" (Hoberock, Tulsa World, 10/3).