Oklahoma Supreme Court blocks anti-abortion laws until court challenges settled

Associated Press

The Oklahoma Supreme Court blocked two new laws aimed at limiting access to abortions on Tuesday, putting both on hold until lawsuits challenging their constitutionality have been settled.

Both laws, approved by the Legislature earlier this year, had taken effect Saturday. One required abortion providers to have a physician with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital present when abortions are performed. The other prohibited off-label uses of abortion-inducing drugs by requiring doctors to administer them only in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocols.

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Abortion-rights supporters welcomed the delay Tuesday.

"Today the Oklahoma Supreme Court handed the women of Oklahoma a crucial victory by protecting their constitutional rights and restoring critical options for those seeking safe and legal abortion services," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is supporting efforts to fight the laws.

"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," she said.

A message seeking comment from Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt was not immediately returned. A spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin said the governor was on the road on Election Day and was unsure if she could be reached for comment.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in October on behalf of an Oklahoma doctor who performs nearly half the state's abortions, seeking to block the law requiring admitting privileges law.

The physician, Dr. Larry Burns, said he had applied for admitting privileges at 16 nearby hospitals but had yet to get approval from any facility.

When Burns filed his lawsuit in October, Fallin — who signed the legislation into law in May — said she believed abortion was wrong and that she had been "proud to work with lawmakers in both parties to support legislation that protects the health and lives of both mothers and their unborn children."