Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Down Law as Placing ‘Undue Burden on Access to Abortion’

Photo Credit: Credit Tomasz Kobosz
Photo Credit: Credit Tomasz Kobosz

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The Oklahoma Supreme Court has struck down a state abortion law that it says both violates the “one subject” rule and “continues to place undue burdens on access to abortion under the guise of protecting the health of women.”

In January, the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit on behalf of Oklahoma abortionist Larry Burns to challenge a multi-faceted law centering on youth who obtain abortions.

The law required criminal penalties for anyone who helps a minor obtain an abortion without their parents’ consent, mandated samples to be taken from aborted babies whose mothers were younger than 14 in order for rape investigations to be conducted by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, and gave permission to the Department of Health to conduct unscheduled inspections of abortion facilities.

Center Attorney Ilene Jaroslaw asserted that the law was unconstitutional because it “log rolled” multiple unrelated matters into one bill in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution’s “single subject” law, and unfairly targeted the abortion industry.

“What it really does is it’s a way of sneaking in provisions that target abortion providers,” she told reporters.

Last October, the Oklahoma Supreme Court blocked the law before it was to have taken effect in November. On Tuesday, it officially struck down the legislation, siding with the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“We find that each of the four sections of SB 642, lack a common purpose and are not germane, relative and cognate,” Justice Joseph Watt wrote on behalf of the nine judge panel. “We reject defendants’ arguments and find this legislation violates the single subject rule as each of these sections is so unrelated and misleading that a legislator voting on this matter could have been left with an unpalatable all-or-nothing choice.”

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“It is an inescapable conclusion that SB 642 will make it considerably more difficult for providers to operate, and accordingly will make it more difficult for the women of Oklahoma to exercise their federally-recognized constitutional right to control their own reproductive futures,” the concurrence, written by Justice Douglas Combs, also remarked.

The Center for Reproductive Rights applauded the outcome.

“Today’s decision is a critical victory for Oklahoma women and their doctors, who will no longer face the threat of criminal prosecution simply for providing safe and legal health care to their patients,” President Nancy Northup said in a statement. “This law was nothing but a cynical attack on women’s health and rights by unjustly targeting their trusted health care providers.”

But Lincoln Ferguson, spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, expressed disappointment.

“This law would have given law enforcement the ability to more easily prosecute sexual assaults of children that are discovered when a child under 14 has an abortion,” he said. “The attorney general’s office remains committed to defending laws aimed at protecting the safety and well-being of Oklahoma women.”

“The Oklahoma Supreme Court too often wields its power to strike down good legislation because a bill doesn’t suit the court’s political ideology,” also remarked bill author Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “The Supreme Court takes a very different view of the single subject rule when it suits a cause they support; however, the court’s application of the single subject rule becomes remarkably strict when it comes to pro-life legislation.”

As previously reported, in an introductory lecture to his course on obstetrics in 1854, Philadelphia obstetrician Hugh Lennox Hodge stated that an abortionist is a “charlatan, who sustains his existence by the price of blood.” He explained that if a woman were to come to a medical doctor in pursuit of an abortion, “he must, as it were, grasp the conscience of his weak and erring patient and let her know in language not to be misunderstood that she is responsible to her Creator for the life of the being within her.”

“We blush, while we record the fact that in this country, in our cities and towns, in this city, where literature, science, morality and Christianity are supposed to have so much influence; where all the domestic and social virtues are reported as being in full and delightful exercise; even here, individuals, male and female, exist, who are continually imbruing their hands and consciences in the blood of unborn infants,” Hodge said.

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