Oklahoma State Supreme Court Rules Two Anti-Choice Bills Unconstitutional


Court decisions are rolling in like waves. Today, the Oklahoma State Supreme Court upheld the ruling of two lower state courts blocking laws that would have effectively banned medication abortion in the state, and forced Oklahoma women seeking abortion to undergo medically unnecessary and intrustive ultrasounds.

Both laws are among the core of a strategy pursued by the anti-choice movement of passing model legislation in numerous states seeking to eliminate access to abortion care at the state level, and ultimately chipping further away at the access to safe abortion care ostensibly protected by Roe v. Wade.

State district court judges previously blocked both laws as violations of the Oklahoma state constitution. In response, the state officials responsible for enforcing those laws appealed to the state’s highest court.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed the initial legal challenge in April 2010 to block the state law that would have forced every woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound, have the image placed in front of her, and hear it described in detail—even if she objected.

As noted by CRR, the lawsuit, filed in Oklahoma state court, argued that the statute violated the principles of medical ethics by requiring physicians to provide unnecessary and unwanted services to patients, while patronizingly discounting a woman’s ability to make decisions about her pregnancy. A district court judge granted a temporary restraining order against the law in July 2010 and then a permanent injunction in March 2012. It was this permanent injunction the state Supreme Court refused to remove.

CRR also filed a legal challenge in October 2011 to block a state law that would have banned any off-label use of medications for abortion or treatment of ectopic pregnancy—while explicitly allowing off-label use of the same medication for other purposes.

According to the lawsuit filed in Oklahoma state court, CRR argued that the law not only jeopardizes women’s health by preventing doctors from using safe and effective methods available, but also undermines women’s ability to exercise the full range of their fundamental constitutionally protected reproductive rights.

That law was temporarily blocked in October 2011 and then permanently struck down by a district court judge in May 2012. The Center filed its legal challenge on behalf of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the availability of the full range of reproductive health care services to women throughout the state, and Nova Health Systems, a non-profit reproductive health care facility located in Tulsa.

Women’s rights advocates involved in the cases celebrated the rulings.

“As the courts that have already heard these cases have resoundingly affirmed, a woman’s right to a full range of reproductive health care is fundamental and constitutionally protected,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at CRR.

We are pleased that the Oklahoma Supreme Court has upheld the decisions by the lower courts to affirm these rights as fully protected rights.

“Oklahoma has long been a testing ground for a national network of organizations hostile to women, doctors, Northup continued, “and the rights of both, and these two laws are prime examples of politicians imposing their ideologies on women’s personal medical decisions. But despite their best efforts to chip away at women’s fundamental rights, the courts have consistently rejected these extreme assaults on reproductive freedom.”

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