10.04.2021 – (PRESS RELEASE) Today, a state court judge in Oklahoma ruled from the bench and denied in part a request for a temporary injunction against several extreme abortion restrictions that will decimate access to abortion across the state and region. The laws — which were all challenged as part of the same lawsuit — are scheduled to take effect on November 1. The plaintiffs will now be seeking emergency relief from the Oklahoma Supreme Court in an attempt to block the remaining restrictions before they can take effect.
The laws blocked by today’s ruling include: a total abortion ban declaring that providing abortion at any stage in pregnancy qualifies as “unprofessional conduct” by physicians; and a law banning abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many people even know they are pregnant. The state conceded that these laws are unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade.
The court failed to block today:
- A law that would immediately decimate abortion access by disqualifying highly trained providers like board-certified family medicine doctors from providing abortion because they are not board-certified OB/GYNs. This law would immediately disqualify over half of the abortion providers in Oklahoma from providing care; and
- Two laws that contain a host of restrictions on medication abortion (abortion by pills), including an admitting privileges requirement, which has been struck down by both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and an ultrasound requirement that is more restrictive than an ultrasound law already struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
“We are stunned that the trial court would allow these unconstitutional laws to take effect—laws that will seriously reduce access to abortion in Oklahoma,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Right now, people in Texas are traveling to Oklahoma and other neighboring states to access abortion. If these laws take effect, it will decimate access not only in Oklahoma, but in the whole region. We will continue to fight to get these laws blocked in court.”
“If these laws take effect as scheduled, abortion access will be decimated in Oklahoma,” said Tamya Cox, Co-Chair of the Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice. “Pregnant people could be forced to travel across state lines for care if their provider is banned from providing abortion. What will happen to the Oklahomans who can’t find childcare, take time off work, or pay for transportation? We won’t leave them behind, and we will continue to fight these restrictions in court.”
“This is a grim day for the United States,” said Dr. Alan Braid, owner of Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic. “The consequences of this ruling will have reverberations throughout the entire South. Oklahoma clinics were already inundated with patients from both Texas and Oklahoma, and if these laws take effect, many Oklahoma abortion providers won’t be able to provide care. Where will all these patients go? Politicians are trying to trap them, and they are succeeding. But we will not stop fighting these restrictions.”
“Planned Parenthood Great Plains is no stranger to the burden of drawn-out litigation to challenge unconstitutional restrictions on abortion. Cases like the one we’ve brought in Oklahoma are, unfortunately, part of the fight to protect care, and we’re committed to doing all it takes to protect our patients’ access to safe, legal abortion,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “The hardest part of having to challenge medically unnecessary and targeted restrictions is the toll these barriers take on patients, who are forced to worry about the uncertainties around their ongoing access to essential, time-sensitive healthcare. But we’re here to do all we can to ensure they receive the care they deserve, no matter what.”
“This is a disappointing day for Oklahomans and for the majority of Americans who believe in a person’s right to make their own health care decisions,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Oklahoma lawmakers failed their constituents this legislative session and today the courts failed to block these blatantly unconstitutional laws that will decimate access across the state, if allowed to take effect. Make no mistake: their decision today will disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities who already have the hardest time accessing care. Our fight is far from over. Planned Parenthood and its partners are committed to doing everything we can to stop these restrictions in court and restore Oklahomans’ right to access safe legal abortion.”
The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, 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.
This decision comes more than a month after Texas’s six-week abortion ban took effect and eliminated the vast majority of abortion access in the state. Clinics in Oklahoma have reported huge increases in patients traveling from Texas to access care. For instance, an Oklahoma clinic reported that two-thirds of the phone calls they receive are now from Texas patients.
The decision also comes just two months before the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade on December 1. That case—Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization—was filed by the Center and challenges a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. These kinds of bans on abortion prior to viability have been unconstitutional since 1973, when the Supreme Court decided the landmark case Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether all pre-viability prohibitions on abortion – like the six-week ban blocked today – are unconstitutional.