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Oklahoma judge blocks new law restricting use of abortion pills

An Oklahoma state court judge on Wednesday issued a temporary injunction [docket materials] against a new Oklahoma law [House Bill 1970 text, RTF] that restricts how doctors may use abortion-inducing drugs to treat patients. Judge Daniel Owens of the District Court of Oklahoma County [official website] granted the motion for a temporary injunction [text, PDF] filed earlier this month by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice (OCRJ) [advocacy websites], which argued that placing restrictions on the use of abortion-inducing drugs violates the equal protection clause of the Oklahoma Constitution [text]. The act would require doctors prescribing abortion drugs to meet stricter requirements, including administering the drug on location in the medical facility, scheduling mandatory follow-up appointments, explaining drug labels to patients and reporting possible negative drug reactions to the pharmaceutical manufacturers. Doctors who fail to meet one of the new requirements would be subject to professional sanctions and could be liable in legal actions taken by the mother, father or maternal grandparents of the aborted fetus. Plaintiffs argued in their petition that the new law does not serve a legitimate government interest and jeopardizes the safety of women seeking abortions [petition, PDF]. The law was scheduled to take effect on November 1, 2011, but will be suspended pending further court action.

Over the last year, Oklahoma has increased the restrictiveness of its abortion laws. In April, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin [official profile] signed into law [JURIST report] House Bill 1888 [materials], prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks. The law allows abortions past the 20-week mark only in certain extenuating circumstances where the mother faces death or serious injury. A doctor who performs an abortion in violation of the time limit would be subject to criminal prosecution for a felony, but the woman undergoing the procedure would not face a penalty. Last year, an Oklahoma state judge extended a temporary injunction [JURIST report] blocking enforcement of a law [HB 2780 text, RTF] that would require women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound and hear a description of the fetus. In May 2010, the Oklahoma Senate [official website] voted to override the veto of a bill [HB 3284 text, RTF] that would require women seeking an abortion to complete a questionnaire, answering questions such as marital status, reasons for seeking the abortion, and whether the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.

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