Oklahoma Court Fails to Block 72-Hour Abortion Delay

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(PRESS RELEASE) Today, the Oklahoma District Court failed to block a measure tripling the state’s mandatory waiting period from 24 to 72 hours for virtually all women seeking abortion services. The law—which has been in effect since November 1, 2015—made Oklahoma the fifth state to force women to delay constitutionally protected healthcare for at least three days. Other states with 72-hour delays in effect include Missouri, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah. Louisiana also passed a 72-hour delay, which is currently blocked by a federal court. 

The Center for Reproductive Rights is currently exploring all legal options to ensure Oklahoma women continue to have access to safe and legal abortion without being forced to delay care. 

"With only four clinics providing safe and legal abortion services in the entire state, Oklahoma women already face many challenges. This medically unnecessary 72-hour waiting period insults women and adds needless hurdles to accessing abortion care,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We will continue to fight for women’s dignity and autonomy to make decisions about their health and their futures, free from political interference.”  

This lawsuit—Nova Health Systems v. Cline—is the seventh time in six years that the Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive healthcare in Oklahoma. The Center has also challenged other Oklahoma abortion restrictions designed to shutdown clinics and force doctors to use outmoded methods when providing medication abortions. 

Waiting periods can create a variety of burdens on a woman who needs safe and legal abortion care, including stigmatizing women and abortion providers. Women of color, low-income women, women in rural areas, and women in abusive relationships already face challenges when they seek health care services, and waiting periods only increase these barriers. Additionally, mandatory waiting periods can lead a woman to delay the abortion to later in pregnancy, which can increase the risks of otherwise extremely safe procedures.