(Updated 05.26.2022) The Center for Reproductive Rights and its partners initially brought this case on April 28 to block an Oklahoma law banning abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy that was passed by the legislature that day. The law, S.B. 1503, took effect when it was signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt on May 3. On May 26, the Center and its partners filed a challenge to H.B. 4327, a total ban on abortion. That law–the most restrictive abortion ban in effect in the U.S.–took effect on May 25, immediately after the governor signed it into law.
Both “vigilante-style” laws encourage individuals to bring costly and harassing lawsuits against abortion providers, health center workers, or others who help someone access abortion care in Oklahoma in violation of the law.
This case was filed on April 28, 2022, the same day that S.B. 1503 was passed by the Oklahoma state legislature. In a move reserved for constitutional crises and other urgent situations, the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood – on behalf of abortion providers and a reproductive justice organization – filed the case directly with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Petitioners requested an emergency order blocking the law banning abortion after six weeks from taking effect while litigation proceeded on the merits.
While federal challenges to Texas’s vigilante ban had been unsuccessful in blocking the law, there was precedent in Oklahoma state court to support plaintiffs’ arguments for relief that would prevent the ban from taking effect.
However, on May 3, shortly after Governor Kevin Stitt signed S.B. 1503 into law, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued its ruling, declining to block the ban and allowing it to take effect that day.
On May 25, Governor Stitt signed an even more extreme law: H.B. 4327, which banned abortion entirely. The law took effect immediately, making Oklahoma the first state to ban abortion entirely while Roe v. Wade stands.
Oklahoma’s Abortion Bans Will Further Devastate Abortion Access in the Region
According to the enforcement scheme of S.B. 1503 and H.B. 4327, individuals can sue an abortion provider or anyone else who assists someone in obtaining an abortion in violation of the law. Those who successfully sue would be rewarded with at least $10,000.
Since September 2021, when Texas’s vigilante law banning abortion at six weeks of pregnancy took effect, most abortion access in the state has ended, forcing people seeking abortion care to travel to Oklahoma and other neighboring states. The new Oklahoma bans, combined with the Texas ban, will create a vast abortion desert in the region, further devastating the ability of thousands to access abortion care.
Timeline of case:
- April 28, 2022: Oklahoma state legislature passes S.B. 1503.
- April 28, 2022: The Center and partners file a lawsuit in the Oklahoma Supreme Court aiming to block the law from taking effect.
- May 3, 2022: Governor Kevin Stitt signs S.B. 1503 into law, effective immediately.
- May 3, 2022: Oklahoma Supreme Court issues ruling, declining to block S.B. 1503 and allowing it to take effect.
- May 25, 2022: Governor Kevin Stitt signs H.B. 4327 into law, which takes effect immediately.
- May 26, 2022: The Center and partners file a lawsuit in Oklahoma state court to block H.B. 4327 from taking effect.
Center Attorney(s): Rabia Muqaddam, Meetra Mehdizadeh, and Cici Coquillette
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorney(s): Jennifer Sandman and Sarah Mac Dougall of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Blake Patton of Walding and Patton
Plaintiff(s): 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
Defendant(s): The State of Oklahoma and all 77 state court clerks
Legal and Other Documents:
- Oklahoma Supreme Court Ruling, 05.03.2022
- Lawsuit Challenging S.B. 1503 in Oklahoma Supreme Court, 04.28.2022
- S.B. 1503 text
- Lawsuit Challenging H.B. 4327 in Oklahoma Supreme Court, 05.26.2022
- H.B. 4327 text
- Center and Partners File Challenge to Oklahoma’s Total Ban on Abortion, 05.26.2022
- Oklahoma’s Vigilante Abortion Ban Takes Effect, Further Devastating Access in the Region, 05.04.2022
- Center and Partners Sue Oklahoma Over Abortion Bans That Would Further Devastate Access in the Region, 04.28.2022