The Center, representing two Oklahoma resident taxpayers, challenged as unconstitutional an Oklahoma state law that would have imposed extensive abortion reporting requirements on physicians and cost the State over a quarter million dollars a year to enforce. On February 19, 2010, the Oklahoma County District Court declared the law unconstitutional and unenforceable.
Filing Date: 9/29/2009
Plaintiff(s): Wanda Jo Stapleton, Lora Joyce Davis
Center Attorney(s): Jennifer Mondino, Stephanie Toti
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Anne Zachritz (Oklahoma City), Martha Hardwick (Tulsa)
Summary: In September 2009, the Center, on behalf of two Oklahoma resident taxpayers, challenged Oklahoma House Bill 1595 in the Oklahoma District Court for Oklahoma County, on the grounds that the law violated the Oklahoma State Constitution’s single subject rule and that its enforcement would unlawfully use taxpayer funds.
In Oklahoma, state taxpayers may challenge state laws on the grounds that they are unconstitutional or will result in the unlawful use of public funds. The single subject rule, guaranteed by Article V, Section 57 of the Oklahoma State Constitution, requires that state laws address only one subject at a time. The challenged law, however, addressed at least four distinct subjects: it redefined a number of abortion-related terms used in the Oklahoma code, imposed a ban on sex selective abortions, established new requirements for doctors who perform abortions or treat patients who have had abortions to report extensive, detailed patient information to the State Health Department, and created new responsibilities for the 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 state laws concerning abortion. Moreover, according to a fiscal analysis submitted to the State Legislature, enforcing the bill’s abortion reporting requirements would have cost the state and its constituents over a quarter million-dollars every year — $281,285 during the first year and $256,285 each subsequent year.
The bill marked the second time in two years that the Oklahoma State Legislature had ignored the single subject rule in an attempt to restrict women’s access to abortion. In September 2009, in another challenge by the Center, the Oklahoma District Court struck down a 2008 state law imposing various abortion restrictions, including the most extreme ultrasound requirement in the country, ruling that the law violated the State Constitution’s single subject rule.
On February 19, 2010, the court granted the Center’s motion for summary judgment and declared the bill unconstitutional and unenforceable, ruling that the bill addressed too many disparate topics and therefore violated the Oklahoma Constitution’s “single-subject” rule which requires laws only address one topic at a time.