The Oklahoma state Supreme Court blocked three extreme abortion restrictions that were set to take effect November 1 and threatened to devastate abortion access in the state. The ruling was in response to an appeal filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights and its partners.
The lawsuit challenges five laws banning and restricting abortion. Two of the laws, which are outright bans, were barred by the trial court in an October 4 decision.
That judge failed to block the three remaining laws which would severely restrict abortion. The Oklahoma Supreme Court instituted an emergency temporary injunction pending the Plaintiffs’ appeal of the October 4 decision declining to enjoin the three laws.
All five of the laws challenged in the case, Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice et al. v. O’Connor, et al., will now remain blocked while the appeal of the October 4 decision proceeds in the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The abortion restrictions blocked by the Oklahoma Supreme Court yesterday include:
- A law that would have forced more than half of the abortion providers in Oklahoma to stop providing abortions by arbitrarily disqualifying board-certified family medicine doctors because they are not board-certified OB/GYNs.
- Two laws that contain a host of restrictions on medication abortion, including a requirement that patients make two separate trips to a healthcare provider at least 72-hours apart, along with other requirements that would impose significant barriers to accessing care.
The laws that had been blocked earlier by the trial court judge include:
- A law declaring that providing abortion care qualifies as “unprofessional conduct” by physicians, resulting in licensure suspension for one year at a minimum. This law would have effectively banned abortion.
- A law that would ban abortion as early as approximately six weeks into pregnancy, before many people even know they are pregnant. (The law is similar to a Texas ban currently in effect that the Center is also challenging, except that the Oklahoma law would be enforced by State actors.)
“The Oklahoma Supreme Court recognized that these laws would cause irreparable harm to Oklahomans,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “All of these laws have the same goal: to make it harder to get an abortion in Oklahoma. We will continue to fight in court to ensure these laws are struck down for good. Politicians should not be meddling in the private health decisions of Oklahomans.”
Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice et al. v. O’Connor, et al. was filed on September 2 to block the five laws from taking effect on November 1. The Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Dechert LLP, and Blake Patton filed the case 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.
Texas Abortion Ban Increasing the Demand for Abortion Services in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma ruling comes almost two months after Texas’s law banning abortion at approximately six weeks into pregnancy eliminated most abortion access in Texas. The ban has also had a significant impact on neighboring states such as Oklahoma. Clinics in Oklahoma have reported huge increases in patients traveling from Texas to receive care, making this a pivotal decision at this time for people across the region.
There will be an argument in the Center’s case challenging the Texas law, Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, on November 1 in the Supreme Court. Unlike the Oklahoma ban, the Texas law incentivizes individuals—including anti-abortion activists—to seek monetary penalties by suing anyone who provides an abortion or assists someone in obtaining one after the law’s limit.
The Center will also be arguing another case at the Supreme Court, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, on December 1, which challenges a Mississippi law banning abortion at 15 weeks. Both cases will be consequential to the future of abortion rights and access in the United States.
- Oklahoma Supreme Court Ruling, 10.25.21
- Case background: Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice et al. v. O’Connor, et al.
- Oklahoma abortion laws