As individuals and interests involved in making abortions available for those possibly in need continue to grapple with the new opportunity for states to set their own rules after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, pregnant individuals seeking an abortion and their allies have nabbed a win from the Oklahoma state Supreme Court.
A majority of that state’s highest court ruled to somewhat expand the available options for an exception to the state’s sweeping ban on obtaining abortions. Although exceptions to the ban were previously available if the pregnant individual’s life was in active and immediate danger, that’s not enough, the Justices said, instead allowing for abortions when medical personnel have a “reasonable” suspicion that the case could progress to such a place. If “the woman’s physician has determined to a reasonable degree of medical certainty” that continuing with “the pregnancy will endanger the woman’s life,” the Justices ruled an abortion would be allowed under Oklahoma’s state Constitution.
This idea sounds pretty straightforward, right? Yet, the majority behind the ruling constituted five of the nine Justices on the case, and Oklahoma GOP Governor Kevin Stitt, who has been extremely vocal about his opposition to abortion and ambitions to restrict access to it, shared outrage about the court’s decision.
“Furthermore, in their 20 page opinion, not once was there any mention of the unborn. From the moment life begins at conception, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother,” Stitt complained. And yet, that’s what the majority was doing, or at least trying to do. Their asserted approach to the dispute would, it seems, balance the calculations required before providing an abortion back towards protecting the pregnant individual instead of what, in these select circumstances, was an already slim if not nonexistent chance a fetus would be viable, as may be the case in many situations where a pregnancy begins to endanger the pregnant person’s life.
Litigation was also recently filed in Texas challenging the implementation of exceptions to that state’s restrictions on abortion. The claimants, including individuals who’d faced sometimes extremely serious complications in pregnancy but struggled to obtain an abortion, were seeking judicial clarification of the circumstances in which abortions are allowed, with what would presumably be the aim of helping keep it so that pregnant individuals don’t have to be literally almost dead to actually get an abortion.