The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily blocked two new abortion restrictions, allowing Oklahoma women to continue to access safe, legal abortion while the legal challenge to the state’s laws continues in court.
The decision by the state’s highest court means that Dr. Larry Burns, who provides 44 percent of all the abortions in the state of Oklahoma, will be allowed to continue offering services. Dr. Burns had been forced to stop providing abortion services after 12 area hospitals refused to extend admitting privileges, as required by an Oklahoma law, which took affect on November 1 after a lower court ruling allowed the law to go forward.
The admitting privileges requirement was signed into law by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R) earlier this year. According to the new law, abortion providers must be able to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic, however, a hospital is under no obligation to grant these privileges. Advocates and doctors agree that admitting privileges requirements have no medical purpose, and only serve to burden women seeking care.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court also temporarily blocked restrictions on medication abortion. Those restrictions, which had also taken effect on November 1, requires doctors to use an outdated Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protocol for administration of mifepristone. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the broader medical community have long abandoned the FDA protocol for a new standard of care that requires a lower dosage of the drug. Based on the old protocol, the Oklahoma law bans medication abortion beyond seven weeks, but abortion providers say the drug can safely be used beyond that time. The state tried to appeal a 2011 medication abortion law attempt to the US Supreme Court, but the Court dismissed the case after receiving guidance on the law from the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
“The Oklahoma Supreme Court handed the women of Oklahoma a crucial victory by protecting their constitutional rights and restoring critical options for those seeking safe and legal abortion services,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who is representing the plaintiffs in both cases. “Time and time again, courts are seeing that the true motive behind these underhanded and baseless restrictions is to push essential reproductive health care services out of reach for as many women as possible.”
Both cases will now return to a trial court, which will consider the legality of the laws.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 10/30/14, 5/30/14, 11/4/13 ; Center for Reproductive Rights 11/4/14; Oklahoma State Courts Network 11/4/14