Oklahoma high court strikes down 2 abortion bans; procedure remains illegal


On Wednesday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that two state laws banning abortion are unconstitutional. However, abortion remains illegal in the state in nearly all cases, except life-threatening situations. The laws struck down on Wednesday both included a civil-enforcement mechanism that allowed citizens to sue someone who either performed or helped someone perform an abortion. The high court said in a 6-3 ruling that the two bans are unconstitutional because they require a “medical emergency” before a doctor can perform an abortion. The court said this language conflicts with a previous ruling it issued in March that determined the Oklahoma Constitution provides an “inherent right of a pregnant woman to terminate a pregnancy when necessary to preserve her life.”

Doctors specializing in obstetriccs and gynecology had said uncertainty about the state’s abortion laws often forced them to make women facing severe medical complications and nonviable pregnancies to wait for their condition to worsen before they could perform an abortion. Dana Stone, an Oklahoma City obstetrician and gynecologist, said: “In our practice we had cases where we would just have to tell women who we would normally offer a (pregnancy) termination to protect her health … ‘We have to let you go home and monitor your condition and if you start showing signs of infection or worsening blood pressure, then come back and we have the ability to legally treat you.’  Otherwise, we’re at risk with these laws of going to jail for 10 years, having hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and losing our medical licenses.”

Oklahoma’s 1910 law makes it a felony crime punishable by up to five years in prison for anyone to perform an abortion or help a woman obtain an abortion unless it is “necessary to preserve her life.”  Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said in a statement: “Despite the court’s decisions today on SB 1603 and HB 4327, Oklahoma’s 1910 law prohibiting abortion remains in place. Except for certain circumstances outlined in that statute, abortion is still unlawful in the state of Oklahoma.”

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