Reproductive choice a “fundamental right” under Oklahoma Constitution, judge finds in ruling that preserves access to full range of medical treatment for all Oklahoma women
(PRESS RELEASE) In an unprecedented ruling recognizing bodily integrity and reproductive choice as fundamental rights under the Oklahoma state constitution, an Oklahoma state judge has found that a law severely and arbitrarily restricting medical care for women seeking an abortion is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.
Women seeking abortions in Oklahoma will continue to have access to non-invasive treatment options that use medications in accordance with scientific evidence, sound medical judgment, and advances in medicine, due to the decision issued Friday by Oklahoma County District Judge Donald Worthington.
Judge Worthington ruled that the bill’s restrictions on medication abortion are unconstitutional because they are “so completely at odds with the standard that governs the practice of medicine that [the bill] can serve no purpose other than to prevent women from obtaining abortions and to punish and discriminate against those women who do.”
“This decision adds to a growing list of state and federal courts that have reaffirmed in no uncertain terms that reproductive rights are fundamental constitutional rights that must be afforded the strongest possible legal protection,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which brought the legal challenge last year.
“It sends a strong message to anti-choice legislators in Oklahoma and beyond that their disingenuous tactics for restricting access to abortion and their hostility toward women’s fundamental rights will not stand. The court has made it clear this law was never about protecting women. It was about banning safe and effective methods of terminating a pregnancy, and making it impossible for women to exercise the full range of their constitutionally protected rights.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a challenge in October 2011 to the unconstitutional law on behalf of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the availability of the full range of reproductive healthcare services to women throughout the state, and Nova Health Systems, a non-profit reproductive healthcare facility located in Tulsa.
The law—which had been temporarily blocked since October—would have banned any off-label use of medications for abortion or treatment of ectopic pregnancy, while explicitly allowing off-label use of the same medication for other purposes. According to the lawsuit, the law not only jeopardizes women’s health by preventing doctors from using safe and effective methods available, but also undermines women’s ability to exercise the full range of their fundamental constitutionally protected reproductive rights.
“The women of Oklahoma deserve access to all options when making decisions about their reproductive health—especially because safe, effective, and medically proven treatment is available as an alternative to a surgical procedure,” said Michelle Movahed, staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights.
More than 1.4 million women in the U.S. have chosen to safely end an early pregnancy through medication abortion since mifepristone was approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration in 2000, and reams of scientific data clearly show that medication abortion is highly safe and effective.
The Center represented the plaintiffs in the case, Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice et al., v. Terry Cline, et al. along with co-counsel attorneys Anne Zachritz in Oklahoma City, OK and Martha Hardwick in Tulsa, OK.