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Oklahoma governor signs abortion restrictions into law

[JURIST] Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin [official website] signed a bill [SB 1848, PDF; legislative history] into law on Wednesday that requires abortion clinics to have a physician with admitting privileges at a hospital within a 30-mile radius present when an abortion is performed. The bill also requires the Oklahoma Board of Health [official website] to establish facility supplies and equipment standards, including equipment required to be immediately available for use in an emergency. An earlier amendment [AP report] to the bill that would have resulted in a ban against stem cell research in the state was removed from the bill. Similar laws have recently been enacted [Reuters report] in five other states across the country, including Kansas, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. When Texas imposed similar regulations on abortion clinics in late 2013, approximately 20, or one-third, of the state's abortion clinics were closed or ceased providing abortions, according to pro-choice groups. The number of abortions in Oklahoma decreased at a slightly higher rate [Guttmacher Institute reports] than overall abortions in the US from 1991-2011. Anti-abortion groups including the Americans United for Life [advocacy website] support [Lifenews report] the legislation on the grounds it will protect women from a potentially fatal situation in the case of emergency. Pro-choice groups such as Planned Parenthood [advocacy website] claim at least three of the five abortion clinics in Oklahoma may close as a result of the measure, and the group recently urged [press release] Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal [official website] to veto similar legislation [JURIST report].

Reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder] and abortion [JURIST news archive] remain highly contested issues across the US, with legislators introducing 733 provisions [Guttmacher Institute report] related to sexual and reproductive health and rights in the first quarter of 2014. Last week the Louisiana State Legislature approved a bill that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. Earlier this month Missouri lawmakers [JURIST report] approved a bill to extend the waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. In a recent article JURIST Guest Columnist LaJuana Davis of the Cumberland School of Law evaluated [JURIST op-ed] the implications of legislative efforts in Alabama and other states to restrict access to abortions. In April the Florida Senate [JURIST report] approved a bill that would prevent most abortions after the fetus reaches viability.

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