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Oklahoma abortion law must be struck down, provider tells court

Oklahoma abortion law must be struck down, provider tells court


OKLAHOMA CITY — A Norman doctor wants the state’s high court to toss out an abortion statute based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court case invalidating a similar Texas law.

Oklahoma passed a 2014 law that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The action came after Texas passed a similar law.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, ruled that the admitting-privileges requirement in the Texas law imposed an undue burden on access to abortion.

Dr. Larry Burns, a Norman abortion provider, challenged the Oklahoma law, Senate Bill 1848, which has been put on hold pending the outcome of the litigation.

Burns on Tuesday asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court for permission to submit briefs on his contention that the U.S. Supreme Court case nullifies the Oklahoma law.

His request says the nation’s high court held that the Texas law failed to serve any valid state interest because nothing in the record established that it would advance women’s health.

“The state has presented no medical evidence in this case that differs in kind from the evidence that the state of Texas presented in Whole Woman’s Health,” Burns states in his filing.

For an abortion restriction to be constitutional, its benefits must outweigh its burdens, the filing says.

“The burdens of the Oklahoma requirement are comparable to the burdens of the Texas requirement struck down in Whole Woman’s Health,” the filing states. “Enforcement of the admitting privileges requirement in Oklahoma would force the closure of one of only two licensed facilities in the state — causing the number of medical facilities proving abortions in the state to drop in half — and lead to increased driving distances, a reduction in the availability of abortion services in Oklahoma, and a delay or total obstruction of access to services.”

Burns is being represented by local counsel and the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which handled the Texas case.

The Center for Reproductive Rights has been successful in challenging a number of Oklahoma laws that put restrictions on abortion.

“Oklahoma’s clinic shut-down law, which is virtually identical to the Texas law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, is presumptively unconstitutional,” said Ilene Jaroslaw, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The highest court of the land reaffirmed that states may not deprive women of their fundamental rights by passing sham laws, such as this, which serve no valid purpose.”

According to the center, since Gov. Mary Fallin took office in 2011, she has signed 18 restrictions on access to reproductive health services. Under her tenure, the center has challenged eight of the 18 measures in the past four years. Fallin signed Senate Bill 1848, which was set to take effect Nov. 1.

Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, is the Senate author.

Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465

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