Oklahoma Women At Risk of Losing Access to Non-Surgical Abortion on November 1

For Immediate Release

Oklahoma Women At Risk of Losing Access to Non-Surgical Abortion on November 1

District court fails to block unconstitutional law restricting medication abortion from taking effect. Center for Reproductive Rights plans immediate appeal to state Supreme Court

OKLAHOMA - A district court judge has refused to block Oklahoma’s unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion in an order issued this morning.  The Center for Reproductive Rights is planning an emergency appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to ensure women in the state will continue to have access to a method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages using medication that has been proven safe by more than a decade of scientific evidence and medical practice after November 1.

The district court judge had announced from the bench on October 22 that he intended to allow the law to take effect—today’s order makes that announcement final.

Late last month, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s unconstitutional restrictions on non-surgical abortion in the earliest weeks of pregnancy—restrictions that would force physicians to treat women seeking medication abortion according to a decade-old method that is less safe, less effective, and more expensive than the evidence-based methods most doctors currently use.  The measure—which was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin in April—also bans all medication abortions after 49 days of pregnancy, forcing women to undergo a surgical procedure when they otherwise would have the option of a safe abortion using medications alone.

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:

 “This ruling endorses sham restrictions passed under false pretenses to deny doctors the ability to prescribe certain kinds of care and women a safe option when they have decided to end a pregnancy.

“Politicians have no more business playing doctor than they do intruding on our personal, private medical decisions. We now look to the Oklahoma Supreme Court to maintain women’s ability to get high-quality, compassionate care based on the expertise of the reproductive health care providers they trust, not the agendas of politicians who presume to know better.”

This is the third time in the past four years Oklahoma politicians have passed legislation restricting women’s access to medication abortion in the state, including a measure that would have effectively banned the method in 2011.  The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a legal challenge in October 2011 against that provision and the US Supreme Court eventually refused to hear the case, allowing the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision permanently blocking the law from taking effect to stand.

Autumn Katz and Zoe Levine of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Blake Patton of Walding & Patton, and Martha Hardwick of Hardwick Law Office represent Nova Health Systems d/b/a Reproductive Services—a non-profit reproductive health care facility in Tulsa—and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice—a non-profit membership organization dedicated to ensuring the availability of the full range of reproductive health care services to women throughout the state in this challenge.

Women in the United States have been safely and legally using medication abortion for over a decade, with one in four women who make the decision to end a pregnancy in the first nine weeks choosing this method.  Major medical groups oppose laws like Oklahoma’s which severely restrict access to medication abortion.  Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG) have submitted amicus briefs opposing similar restrictions in Arizona and Texas.  These types of restrictions ignore years of doctor’s practical experience and scientific advancement, forcing providers to prescribe the medication with an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol.

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like these further underscore the need for the federal Women's Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Oklahoma from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.

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The Center for Reproductive Rights uses the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.

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