Jurist: Oklahoma Supreme Court rightly rejected law undermining reproductive rights

By Stephanie Toti, Staff attorney, US Legal Program, Center for Reproductive Rights

The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently struck down an omnibus statute, S.B. 1878, that imposed a host of contradictory restrictions on the provisions of reproductive health care in the State. The law included a provision that would have prohibited a woman from having an abortion unless she first had an ultrasound and listened to her doctor describe the image in detail. Paradoxically, there was also a provision that would have prevented women from suing their obstetricians for intentionally withholding information about problems with their pregnancies, including fetal anomalies. In addition, abortion providers would be required to post signs in their offices stating that it is against the law for anyone to force a woman to have an abortion, but not for anyone to coerce her into carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. By manipulating the flow of information to pregnant women, the law undermined women's ability to make informed decisions about their reproductive health and insulted their dignity, autonomy, and intelligence.

S.B. 1878 was enacted by a super-majority of the Legislature over the Governor's veto. This, despite the fact that it suffered from numerous constitutional flaws, not the least of which was its consolidation of several distinct restrictions into a single measure. But that kind of logrolling is strictly prohibited by the Oklahoma Constitution. The Oklahoma Supreme Court held the Legislature accountable for its disregard of the Constitution, sternly admonishing the body for its violation of core state constitutional law. In doing so, the Court vindicated both the rights of women and the rule of law.

The Court's decision was insufficient, however, to bring to a halt the relentless campaign waged by some legislators to make it harder for doctors to provide abortion and for women in Oklahoma to obtain abortion services. The provisions of S.B. 1878 have all been reintroduced this legislative session, along with some additional restrictions, such as a ban on the sale of egg cells. It is my sincere hope that those provisions will not be enacted into law. Like their forerunners, they violate a myriad of constitutional principles, from freedom of speech to due process to equal protection of the law. But regardless of what happens this legislative session, the Center for Reproductive Rights will continue to stand up for the rights of women and the rule of law, and we hope that the Oklahoma Supreme Court will continue to stand with us.

Article originally appeared on Jurist.