(PRESS RELEASE) After permanently blocking a measure in October 2016 which targeted women’s health care providers with onerous criminal penalties simply because they provide abortion services, the Oklahoma Supreme Court today permanently blocked a Texas-style clinic shutdown law designed to shut down abortion clinics under the guise of protecting women’s health.
Senate Bill 1848 was signed by Governor Mary Fallin (R) in May 2014 and forced reproductive health care clinics to have a physician with admitting privileges at a local hospital on-site when abortion procedures are performed. Such requirements serve no medical purpose and have been denounced by leading medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Today’s ruling comes less than six months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck Texas’ nearly identical clinic shutdown law as unconstitutional in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt--the most significant abortion-related ruling from the Court in more than two decades. Since then, the Supreme Court declined to review two court rulings that blocked admitting privileges laws in Mississippi and Wisconsin, allowing both injunctions to stand.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“Whether in Oklahoma, Texas or elsewhere, allowing politicians to trample women’s rights by shutting down clinics is not only wrong--it’s dangerous.
“Today’s decision is a victory for Oklahoma women and another rebuke to politicians pushing underhanded laws that attack a woman’s constitutionally guaranteed right to safe, legal abortion.
“We will continue to stand with Oklahoma women in beating back these relentless political schemes designed to make the right to safe, legal abortion a right that only exists on paper.”
Since Governor Fallin took office in 2011, she has signed 19 restrictions on access to reproductive health care services into law. The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged eight of those nineteen measures in the last four years and has a 100% success rate for concluded cases challenging Oklahoma restrictions on reproductive health care. This past session, the Oklahoma legislature passed a blatantly unconstitutional measure totally banning abortion by making it a felony for any person to perform or induce an abortion, Governor Fallin vetoed the ban shortly after it arrived on her desk, citing constitutional concerns.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, along with Blake Patton of Walding &, Patton and Martha Hardwick of Hardwick Law Office, filed the legal challenge against Oklahoma’s clinic shutdown law on behalf of Larry A. Burns, D.O.—a physician with over 41 years of experience providing safe abortion care in Norman, Oklahoma. Although a district court failed to block the measure earlier this year, a 2014 ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court ensured the measure did not take effect, thereby allowing Dr. Burns continue providing care.