Court temporarily halts Oklahoma abortion rules

The top court in Oklahoma is temporarily halting two harsh abortion laws that went into effect this weekend, a decision that has been hailed as “a crucial victory” by abortion rights activists.

The state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that abortions could continue in the state until a bevy of legal challenges against the laws are “fully and finally litigated.”

The ruling, though temporary, has drawn praise from groups like Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, one of several groups that have filed lawsuits against the rules.

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“Time and time again, courts are seeing that the true motive behind these underhanded and baseless restrictions is to push essential reproductive health care services out of reach for as many women as possible,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, wrote in a release.

While both measures in Oklahoma have largely avoided the national spotlight ahead of Election Day on Tuesday, the president of Planned Parenthood compared the laws to those in Texas, which she said have had a “heartbreaking impact” on women in that state.

“We are relieved the court has stepped in to protect women’s access to safe, legal abortion in Oklahoma,” Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, wrote in a statement Tuesday.

Oklahoma’s laws, which are among the strictest in the country, immediately drew legal challenges from abortion-rights supporters, including a doctor who administers about half the abortions in the state.

The doctor, Larry Burns, said he would be forced to close his clinic under the new rules, which require all abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.

Medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have filed amicus briefs to oppose the law, which they claimed “jeopardizes women’s health.”

The second law, which issues new restrictions for doctors administering the abortion pill, has been challenged by the nonprofit group Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, as well as a clinic in Tulsa.

Laws similar to Oklahoma’s have been struck down in four other states, though an appeals court in New Orleans upheld a law in Texas with the same provision.