Court Blocks Oklahoma Law that Violates Doctors’ Free Speech

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Law would force physicians to tell patients that some abortions are “reversible”
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(PRESS RELEASE)—Today, a state district court judge ruled from the bench and temporarily blocked an Oklahoma law forcing doctors to tell patients that medication abortion (abortion by pills) can be “reversed”—a misleading claim unsupported by scientific evidence. Under this law, physicians can be charged with a felony if this misleading information is not repeatedly relayed to the patient, including at least 72 hours before their medication abortion appointment and on mandatory signs in the clinic.The preliminary injunction was requested by Center for Reproductive Rights, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP, and Walding & Patton PLLC on behalf of Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic, LLC and Dr. Alan Braid. 

This law is a glaring free speech violation and the court recognized that today,” said Gail Deady, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “There is no credible scientific evidence that medication abortion is reversible. Forcing doctors to tell patients otherwise would violate not only their free speech rights, but medical ethics.”  

“When patients walk through the doors of our clinic, they deserve to be told truthful and non-misleading information about whatever treatment they’re receiving, whether it’s a prescription for birth control or a medication abortion,” said Dr. Alan Braid, owner of Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic. “Today’s ruling protects our ability to speak honestly with our patients and protects the trust our patients put in us.” 

The law being challenged, S.B. 614, was scheduled to take effect on November 1, 2019. In addition to forcing doctors to tell their patients that a medication abortion can be “reversed,” the law also requires providers to repeatedly direct patients to Heartbeat International’s Abortion Pill Reversal Network 24-hour hotline. Providers must also post signage throughout their health center with the network’s information, and directly provide it to patients following their appointment. 

Last month, a court blocked a similar law in North Dakota in a case also filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Eight states have now passed laws requiring abortion providers to tell patients about so-called abortion “reversal,” with five of those laws passed in 2019. The eight states include: Arkansas; Idaho; Kentucky; North Dakota; South Dakota; Oklahoma; Nebraska; and Utah. 

These laws are opposed by medical experts, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College for Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). ACOG has referred to these bills as “based on unproven, unethical research” and “dangerous to women’s health.” 

Only four health centers provide abortion services in the entire state of Oklahoma. In addition to the law challenged in this suit, Oklahoma has passed many other abortion restrictions, including: a parental consent requirement for minors; a ban on the use of telemedicine to prescribe pills for medication abortion; and restrictions on when private, public and state health insurance plans can cover abortion care. The Center is currently challenging two other Oklahoma laws--a law banning the standard abortion procedure after about 14 weeks of pregnancy, and another law that forces patients to wait 72 hours to access abortion.

This case was filed by attorneys from Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Walding & Patton PLLC on behalf of Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic, LLC and Dr. Alan Braid.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Nora Franco, nfranco@reprorights.org, 609-964-6759