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Oklahoma Supreme Court rules two abortion laws unconstitutional

The courtroom of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Oklahoma Supreme Court
The courtroom of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled two bills banning abortions unconstitutional on Wednesday.

Justices ruled in a 6-3 decision that the state’s abortion bans passed last year are too restrictive and vague for doctors. Those laws made abortion illegal, except in a “medical emergency.”

Senate Bill 1503 was modeled after the Texas heartbeat bill, and stated abortions were banned after a heartbeat was detected, usually six weeks into pregnancy.

A total ban on abortions, House Bill 4327 forbid the procedure unless one was necessary to save the mother’s life or if the pregnancy was the result of rape, sexual assault or incest and the case had been reported to law enforcement.

Both bills use civil lawsuits for enforcement, rather than through criminal prosecution, setting up a kind of bounty system.

The Supreme Court stuck down the laws because of their “medical emergency” to occur before an abortion can be performed. Previously, the court ruled in March that the state constitution includes the right of a pregnant woman to terminate a pregnancy should it be necessary to save her life.

ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Tamya Cox-Toure said while the ruling will not restore full abortion access in the state, it does clarify that a dire medical emergency does not need to happen in order to receive the procedure.

“The short story is that we are pleased with this decision,” Cox-Toure said. “However, because of our pre-Roe abortion bans, Oklahoma does not have full access to abortion care, even in light of these laws being struck down as unconstitutional.”

In a statement, House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) wrote he was disappointed by the ruling and GOP lawmakers will continue to pursue anti-abortion legislation.

He called Oklahoma one of the most pro-life states, adding that the Supreme Court’s ruling will not change that status.

“A supermajority of members in both chambers supported this legislation that was signed by the governor,” McCall wrote. “We will continue to be a voice for the voiceless as we strive to protect the right to life in the state of Oklahoma.”

His comments were echoed by Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat.

"It is important for Oklahomans to know that leaders in the legislature are committed to the right to life in Oklahoma," Treat said in a statement.

Gov. Kevin Stitt also weighed in, saying he will continue to pursue policies to limit abortion access in Oklahoma.

"As governor, I will continue to do my part to fight to protect the lives of the unborn. From the moment life begins at conception, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect that baby's life and the life of the mother," Stitt said in a written statement. "Oklahoma will keep working to be the most pro-family state in the nation.”

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Peggy Dodd was an intern at KOSU during the summer of 2023.
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