Court Permanently Blocks Oklahoma's Demeaning and Intrusive Anti-Abortion Ultrasound Law
03.28.12 - (PRESS RELEASE) A demeaning Oklahoma law that would have inserted government between women and their doctors, forced medical procedures on women whether they need them or not, and compelled doctors to recite speech imposed on them by anti-choice lawmakers was permanently blocked from enforcement today by the district court judge overseeing a legal challenge brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The law, which was passed into law April 2010 after the Oklahoma Legislature overrode then-Governor Brad Henry’s veto, would have forced a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound, have the image placed in front of her, and hear it described in detail—even if she objects. The statute has been blocked since May 2010 by a temporary injunction secured by the Center.
“The court has resoundingly affirmed what should not be a matter of controversy at all—that women have both a fundamental right to make their own choices about their reproductive health, and that government has no place in their decisions,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today’s decision adds to the growing momentum of a nationwide backlash against the overreaching of lawmakers hostile to women, their doctors, and their rights.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed Nova Health Systems v. Pruitt with the District Court of Oklahoma County in April 2010 on behalf of Nova Health Systems and Dr. Larry Burns, two of the three abortion providers in the state. The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice also joined the case as a plaintiff.
The lawsuit argued the statute violated the principles of medical ethics by requiring physicians to provide unnecessary and unwanted services to patients, while patronizingly discounting a woman's ability to make decisions about her pregnancy. A district court judge granted a temporary restraining order against the law in May 2010.
On February 7, Texas’ similarly extreme ultrasound law went into effect after a panel on the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law’s provisions. Until that decision, every court that has reviewed similarly intrusive ultrasound laws had ruled the laws unconstitutional—including the Center’s current challenge to a similar measure in North Carolina, which has been enjoined since October 2011.
The Center for Reproductive Rights represented the plaintiffs in this case along with co-counsel from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP, in New York, NY; and the Hardwick Law Office in Tulsa, OK.