Lawsuit Challenges Oklahoma’s Draconian Abortion Restrictions

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Lawsuit Challenges Oklahoma’s Draconian Abortion Restrictions

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A lawsuit filed Friday is the eighth time in five years attorneys have sued to block unconstitutional abortion restrictions in Oklahoma.

Reproductive rights advocates in Oklahoma filed a lawsuit Friday challenging two measures they say will make it nearly impossible to access abortion care in the state.

The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) in state court, is the latest effort to roll back a series of abortion restrictions GOP legislators in the state passed during the most recent legislative session. The first measure challenged in the lawsuit is HB 1721, which bans so-called dismemberment abortions, targeting a procedure known as dilation and evacuation (D and E), frequently used during second-trimester abortions.

After 14 weeks’ gestation, the D and E procedure must be used to perform an abortion, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Dilation and evacuation bans like HB 1721 may ban all surgical abortion past 14 weeks’ gestation. HB 1721 mirrors a Kansas measure that was signed by staunch anti-choice Republican Gov. Sam Brownback in April 2015. The Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the Kansas measure in June and a state court judge blocked it from taking effect a few weeks later.

The lawsuit also challenges HB 1409, a measure that triples the state’s forced waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours for all patients. Oklahoma is the fifth U.S. state to force patients to delay reproductive health care for at least three days.

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“When faced with an unintended pregnancy, Oklahoma women need high-quality care, not forced delays or measures that criminalize their doctors,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Oklahoma politicians have made it their mission to block women from safe and legal abortion when they need it most, trampling the rights afforded to women by their state constitution in the process.”

Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed both measures into law this past spring. The laws are slated to take effect on November 1.

Oklahoma only has two abortion clinics in the the state, and Friday’s lawsuit marks the eighth time in five years that attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights have challenged abortion restrictions in the state.

Most recently, CRR filed a lawsuit challenging an omnibus measure attorneys argue blatantly violates the Oklahoma Constitution’s “single-subject” rule. The Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging the state’s Texas-style clinic shutdown law and most recently passed restrictions on medication abortion. The state Supreme Court temporarily blocked the clinic shutdown law from taking effect in November 2014 and a state court permanently blocked the restrictions on medication abortion last month.