09.02.2021 – (PRESS RELEASE) Today, five unconstitutional abortion restrictions passed by Oklahoma lawmakers earlier this year were challenged in state court, including bans on 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. Plaintiffs are asking the court to block the laws before they are scheduled to take effect on November 1, 2021.
The laws challenged in this lawsuit are:
- A total abortion ban declaring that providing abortion at any stage in pregnancy qualifies as “unprofessional conduct” by physicians, which will result, at minimum, in suspension of licensure.
- A law banning abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many people even know they are pregnant.
- A law that would immediately decimate abortion access by disqualifying highly trained providers like family medicine doctors because they happen not to be board-certified OB/GYNs.
- Two laws that contain a host of restrictions on medication abortion (abortion by pills), including requirements that have already been struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court and/or U.S. Supreme Court: an admitting privileges requirement, which has been struck down by both the Supreme Court and the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and an ultrasound requirement more restrictive than an ultrasound law already struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
“The Oklahoma Supreme Court has found time and again that the state legislature’s extreme attempts to restrict abortion are unconstitutional,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “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.”
“Oklahoma politicians wasted no time attacking access to abortion this year. Instead of focusing on ways to improve and expand access to health care services during a global pandemic, they passed laws designed to make abortion nearly impossible to get in the state. And to that we say: we’ll see you in court,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Planned Parenthood is always going to fight for our patients and their right to safe, legal abortion. And during what’s been the worst state legislative session for proposed abortion restrictions since Roe was decided, this year is no different. All patients deserve better from their lawmakers, and we’re here to fight for them.”
“It’s no secret that abortion restrictions in Oklahoma disproportionately harm Black people, Indigenous people, other people of color, and those struggling to make ends meet,” said Tamya Cox, Co-Chair of the Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice. “These communities already face often insurmountable barriers to health care, including abortion. We are going to fight these new restrictions with everything we have.”
“To claim that providing essential health care is ‘unprofessional conduct’ is ludicrous,” said Dr. Alan Braid, owner of Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic. “If these laws were to go into effect as intended, they would push abortion out of reach for the many Oklahomans who just don’t have the resources to travel out of state. We’ll do everything we can to stop them.”
“Health outcomes in Oklahoma are among the nation’s worst. Our Oklahoma patients deserve better,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “A governor who wants to tout all of Oklahoma’s ‘top ten’ rankings should be more focused on getting Oklahoma out of the bottom ten of infant mortality, sexually transmitted infections, and teen births rather than blocking critical care to score political points.”
This lawsuit comes just one day after Texas’ six-week abortion ban took effect and forced almost all abortion in the state to come to an abrupt stop. It also comes months before the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that directly challenges Roe v. Wade. 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 previability prohibitions on abortion – like the six-week ban challenged today – are unconstitutional.