The Oklahoma Supreme Court once again affirmed its stance on Tuesday in a 5-4 decision that the state constitution upholds a woman’s right to have an abortion if it is necessary to protect her life. However, abortion is still prohibited in almost all other circumstances.
In a legal case regarding five anti-abortion bills passed in 2021, the court instructed a lower court to maintain a temporary ban on three of the laws until the case is fully evaluated. A district court judge had already halted two of the laws.
The court ruled on three laws pertaining to abortion: one requiring OB/GYN board certification for physicians performing the procedure, another requiring physicians administering abortion drugs to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and the third mandating an ultrasound 72 hours prior to administering the drugs.
“We appreciate the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s acknowledgement of the lack of medical basis and potential harm posed by these laws, and their decision to continue blocking them during the ongoing case,” stated Rabia Muqaddam, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York organization that advocates for abortion rights and was joined by Oklahoma abortion providers in their lawsuit against the state. “While we are pleased with this update, the unfortunate truth remains that individuals in Oklahoma are still unable to obtain necessary abortion care.”
A spokesperson for Gentner Drummond, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, stated that their office is currently examining the court’s ruling and will take appropriate action in response.
“It should be emphasized, though, that these choices do not affect the ban on abortion in Oklahoma, which still stands as the law of the country,” stated Phil Bacharach, spokesperson for Drummond.
In May 2022, after Republican Governor Kevin Stitt passed a bill that was considered the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation, abortion providers in Oklahoma ceased performing the procedure. Approximately a month later, the U.S. Supreme Court removed constitutional protections for abortion, resulting in more than 20 states enacting abortion bans.
According to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the number of abortions conducted in Oklahoma saw a significant decrease from approximately 4,145 in 2021 to 898 in 2022. The statistics also reveal that in 66 instances in 2022, the abortion was deemed necessary to prevent the death of the mother.
The spokesperson for the health department stated that the statistics for abortions in 2023 are currently unavailable.