Former State Rep. Files Suit Against Abortion Restrictions in Oklahoma
New Law Wastes Money, Violates Good Government Constitutional Provision
09.29.09 - (PRESS RELEASE) Today, former Oklahoma state representative Wanda Stapleton, along with Shawnee, Oklahoma resident Lora Joyce Davis, filed a legal challenge against an Oklahoma law that will impose a host of restrictions on women's access to abortion and cost the state over a quarter of a million dollars a year to enforce. The plaintiffs are represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights and argue that the state legislature overstepped its authority by enacting a statute that will both violate the Oklahoma's Constitution and waste taxpayers' money.
The Oklahoma Constitution requires that laws address only one subject at a time, but the new measure covers four distinct subjects, including redefining a number of abortion-related terms used in the Oklahoma code; banning sex-selective abortion; requiring doctors who perform abortions or treat patients who have had abortions to report extensive patient information to the state health department; and creating new responsibilities for the State Health Department, the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision, and the State Board of Osteopathic Examiners relating to gathering and analyzing abortion data and enforcing abortion restrictions. According to the legislature's own estimates, implementing the new reporting requirements will cost the state $281,285 during the first year and $256,285 each subsequent year.
"As taxpayers in this state, we expect our representatives to follow the state constitution, not pick and choose what measures suit them, then pass unconstitutional legislation that shortchanges their constituents by a quarter-of-a-million dollars," said Ms. Stapleton.
The 2009 statute is the Oklahoma legislature's second attempt in the last two years to restrict abortion by bundling numerous provisions into one bill. Last month, a state district court struck down a 2008 law that included, among other abortion restrictions, the most extreme ultrasound requirement in the country and a requirement that would have limited the availability of abortions performed with the medical abortion pill. The court in that case ruled that the statute included too many disparate topics and therefore violated the state constitution.
"Anti-choice forces will stop at nothing to prevent women from having access to abortion services, including resorting to a cheap legislative trick that's quite clearly unconstitutional," said Jennifer Mondino, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Rather than considering each item alone, as the Oklahoma Constitution requires, the legislature has made last year's error all over again. These ‘bundled abortion restrictions' have nothing to do with protecting the people of Oklahoma and everything to do with lawmakers who have political agendas trying to make it harder for women to get abortions and harder for doctors to provide them."
Plaintiffs Stapleton and Davis filed Davis v. W.A. Drew Edmondson as Oklahoma residents and taxpayers in the Oklahoma County District Court. Anne Zachritz of Oklahoma City and Martha Hardwick of Tulsa are co-counsel.