State Watch

Abortion providers challenge bans in Oklahoma

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki File)
Dani Thayer, left, and Marina Lanae, right, both of Tulsa, Okla., hold pro-choice signs at the state Capitol, Wednesday, April 13, 2022, in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma’s Republican-led state Legislature passed several anti-abortion restrictions in recent weeks, part of a movement in conservative states to curtail women’s reproductive rights. Anti-abortion lawmakers are hopeful the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court might even overturn the nationwide right that has existed for nearly 50 years.

Abortion providers in Oklahoma filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s two abortion bans on Friday, just a week after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.

The lawsuit asks the Oklahoma Supreme Court to strike down two bans: one that was enacted in 1910 and revived when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, and another law scheduled to take effect in August that makes performing an abortion a felony by up to 10 years in prison.

It was filed by Dechert LLP, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America on behalf of providers such as Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic and Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma.

They also asked the court to issue an emergency order to block the bans while it reviews the lawsuit. 

“As more and more states ban abortion in the region, it is all the more imperative that this court act swiftly to rule under its own constitution and restore abortion access in the state,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed the country’s strictest anti-abortion ban into law in May. The law, which takes effect next month, allows citizens to file civil lawsuits up to $10,000 against anyone who performs or assists in an abortion. 

The law includes exemptions if the pregnancy is a result of rape, incest or sexual assault or if the mother’s life is at risk.

Additionally, Stitt signed into law the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act in April. Physicians who perform an abortion after a heartbeat is detected in an embryo — around six weeks of pregnancy — could also face civil lawsuits.

Both laws are being challenged by abortion providers as well.

“For over a month, Oklahomans have been completely deprived of abortion access, and they cannot wait one moment more,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Today, we are asking this court not only to quickly block the state’s cruel abortion bans, but to do its job and protect the people of Oklahoma.”

Tags Kevin Stitt Nancy Northup
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