(Updated 10.06.21) On September 2, 2021, the Center for Reproductive Rights and its partners filed a lawsuit to block five Oklahoma state laws that ban and restrict abortion care. These laws ban abortion entirely by suspending doctors’ licenses, ban abortion at approximately six weeks of pregnancy, bar highly trained professionals from providing abortion services, and restrict access to medication abortion.
In 1973, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court held that the U.S. Constitution protects the right to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability, and Oklahoma state courts have faithfully applied this precedent. Oklahoma legislators, however, have repeatedly enacted laws that violate the right to abortion and are thus “unconstitutional and contrary to clear Oklahoma Supreme Court precedent,” according to the complaint filed by the Center and its partners.
The first three laws challenged in this case include:
- A law that bans abortion entirely by declaring that the provision of abortion care is “unprofessional conduct” by physicians, resulting in suspension of medical licensure for one year, at a minimum.
- A law banning abortion at approximately six weeks of pregnancy, which is before most people realize they are pregnant.
- A law that would arbitrarily prohibit highly trained clinicians, including family medicine doctors, from providing abortion care because they are not OB/GYNs.
The other two laws contain hundreds of provisions severely limiting access to medication abortion, which as many benefits for patients:
- One law includes provisions that convert the existing mandatory delay law into an ultrasound requirement, which will force patients to have two appointments with a healthcare provider at least 72-hours apart. Other provisions require patient and provider information to be filed with the state.
- The other includes additional restrictions on medication abortion, which apply to providers and manufacturers and distributors, including narrowing the window in which medication abortion can be prescribed and requiring access to a doctor with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Center President and CEO Nancy Northup said about the laws at issue in this case, “If allowed to take effect, these laws would end abortion access in Oklahoma, forcing patients to travel great distances and cross state lines to get essential health care. It’s unbelievable that in the midst of a global pandemic, Oklahoma’s lawmakers would have people drive hundreds of miles to access abortion services. They should be focusing on containing the spread of COVID-19 and saving the lives of people in their state instead of taking away their citizens’ constitutional rights.”
Slated to go into effect on November 1, 2021, the laws are challenged by the Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Dechert LLP, and Blake Patton on behalf of the Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic, Dr. Alan Braid, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma.
Defendants for the case include the Attorney General of Oklahoma, District Attorneys for Oklahoma County and Tulsa County, the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision, the Oklahoma State Board of Osteopathic Examiners, the Oklahoma State Board of Health, and the Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy.
On October 4, a state court denied in part the request for a temporary injunction against several of the restrictions, including the law that would prohibit highly qualified providers from providing abortion care because they are not board-certified OB/GYNs and the two laws restricting medication abortion. At the same time, the state court agreed to block the total abortion ban, which declares that providing abortion at any stage in pregnancy qualifies as “unprofessional conduct” by physicians; and the law banning abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy.
Timeline of case:
- April 26, 2021: Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law H.B. 1102, a total ban on abortion; H.B. 2441, a six-week abortion ban; and H.B. 1904, an OB/GYN requirement.
- May 28, 2021: Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law S.B. 778 and S.B. 779, which restrict medication abortion.
- September 2, 2021: Plaintiffs filed the case in state court, asking the Oklahoma County district court to block the laws before they take effect on November 1, 2021.
- October 4, 2021: The district court held a hearing on Plaintiffs’ request for an injunction to block the laws before they take effect. Ruling from the bench, the state court judge blocked two of the abortion bans, but denied the request for the temporary injunction on several of the restrictions.
Center Attorneys: Rabia Muqaddam, Caroline Sacerdote, and Jenn Beard.
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Christine Clarke and Diana Salgado of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Linda Goldstein of Dechert LLP, and Blake Patton of Walding and Patton.
Plaintiffs: Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic, Dr. Alan Braid, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma.
- Complaint, 09.02.2021