Oklahoma Abortion Ban Hit With State Supreme Court Lawsuit

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A new lawsuit has been filed with the Oklahoma state Supreme Court in hopes of blocking a pair of state bans on abortion in the aftermath of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Doing so left state officials allowed to regulate abortion according to their personal and political ambitions.

Both of the targeted bans apparently cover the entirety of pregnancy. One of the measures was originally put into effect in 1910 and invalidated after the original Roe decision, but it remained technically on the books and is back in force. The other targeted measure is scheduled to take effect in August and would make performing an abortion in the state of Oklahoma a felony offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a potential fine of up to $100,000. Oklahoma has other abortion restrictions in place — which have also been targeted by litigation; in the state, Republican Governor Kevin Stitt pledged to sign any anti-abortion measure passed by the legislature, leading to this patchwork of restrictive laws. The variety itself could constitute another potentially formidable strategy by anti-abortion extremists; if a judge is willing to strike down one abortion ban, the other restrictions might remain.

Oklahoma lost access to abortion after a law similar in style to an infamous Texas measure went into effect in May of this year. The Oklahoma law, House Bill 4327, bans abortions throughout pregnancy and relies on private citizens bringing lawsuits against those involved in the procurement of an illegal abortion as an enforcement mechanism. On the same day that measure was signed and went into effect, Stitt also signed a similar measure that banned abortions after some six weeks of pregnancy. Around the country, harsh abortion restrictions have consistent exceptions for cases in which performing an abortion would safe the life of a pregnant person, but such exceptions aren’t models of compassion. What about the many pregnant individuals who might not die but may nonetheless suffer life-altering consequences an abortion could help avert?

Litigation against abortion restrictions in Idaho noted exceptions in that state for saving a pregnant individual’s life weren’t even clearly established. “The lawsuit also claims that the ban’s terms are so vague that medical providers will be unable to know when they are permitted to provide care for patients experiencing miscarriage or to provide abortions to protect a patient’s life,” an Idaho Capital Sun report explains of that litigation.

Those behind the new Oklahoma lawsuit are pushing for the targeted restrictions to be temporarily blocked while proceedings over the merits of their arguments continue. The case was filed by Dechert LLP, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Blake Patton, on behalf of the Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic, Dr. Alan Braid, Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. Braid is an abortion provider. Those behind separate litigation challenging the citizen-enforced abortion bans in Oklahoma are still awaiting a ruling from the Oklahoma state Supreme Court, where initial litigation was filed. There’s been some success in pro-abortion rights litigation, with temporary halts to abortion bans in Utah and Louisiana. Court challenges are also continuing elsewhere, such as in Florida, where a 15-week ban is under dispute in court and was very briefly blocked this week as litigation proceeds.