Oklahoma Supreme Court Blocks Warrantless Searches of Abortion Providers

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Oklahoma Supreme Court Blocks Warrantless Searches of Abortion Providers

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A ruling Monday means a recent Oklahoma law subjecting abortion providers to criminal penalties for providing abortion care will remain blocked pending a full legal challenge.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday blocked enforcement of a multi-subject measure advocates argue targeted women’s health-care providers with onerous criminal penalties because they provide abortion services.

SB 642 was scheduled to go into effect on November 1 and contains four provisions targeting abortion providers. One measure permits unannounced, warrantless searches of abortion providers. The law includes language that could be interpreted to bring felony charges for any violation of the more than 140 statutes in the state targeted at physicians and medical facilities providing abortion care.

Monday’s ruling followed a lawsuit filed last month by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Larry A. Burns, a physician with more than four decades of experience and one of two abortion providers in the state.

“Oklahoma women already face significant obstacles when seeking safe and legal abortion, the last thing they need is another measure criminalizing their doctors and pushing essential health care further out of reach,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “We will continue to stand with Oklahoma women and their trusted health care providers to fight back against these cruel and unconstitutional attacks.”

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The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care in Oklahoma eight times in five years, including a measure that forces women to delay constitutionally protected health care by at least 72 hours and a ban on the most common method of second trimester abortion.

A state court judge blocked the ban this month, but allowed the forced waiting period to take effect.

As a result of Monday’s ruling, the law will remain blocked pending the re-filing of the challenge in state district court. The ruling ensures the measure will remain blocked until that litigation is concluded.