Abortion providers ask Oklahoma Supreme Court to block pre-Roe abortion ban and another total ban passed this year
Today, abortion providers and advocates in Oklahoma filed a lawsuit in state court challenging two total abortion bans with criminal penalties for providers, one of which has been on the books since 1910. The 1910 “pre-Roe” ban prohibits abortion entirely and was revived by the Oklahoma Attorney General on June 24, 2022, after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The other ban (S.B. 612, enacted in 2022) would make performing an abortion a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a $100,000 fine. It is scheduled to take effect in August.
Today’s lawsuit was filed directly with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In addition to asking the court to strike down the 1910 and 2022 criminal abortion bans, petitioners requested an emergency order to block the bans while litigation on the merits proceeds.
Abortion has been completely unavailable in Oklahoma since May 25, 2022, when Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law two citizen-enforced bans on abortion that took effect immediately upon signature. Abortion providers have also challenged those bans, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court has yet to rule.
Today’s lawsuit was filed by Dechert LLP, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Blake Patton, on behalf of the Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic, Dr. Alan Braid, Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma.
Quotes from plaintiffs and attorneys:
“There are now multiple cases pending before the Oklahoma Supreme Court asking them to restore abortion access in the state, and we hope the court will rule as soon as possible given the tremendous harm that is being inflicted on Oklahomans each day these bans remain in effect,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “As more and more states ban abortion in the region, it is all the more imperative that this court act swiftly to rule under its own constitution and restore abortion access in the state. The people of Oklahoma have already gone too long without access.”
“For over a month, Oklahomans have been completely deprived of abortion access, and they cannot wait one moment more,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Today, we are asking this court not only to quickly block the state’s cruel abortion bans, but to do its job and protect the people of Oklahoma. Already, thousands of Oklahomans have been forced to either find a way to get out of state for essential care or carry a pregnancy to term — bearing the serious risks that come with it. Planned Parenthood refuses to stand by while people are denied their freedom to decide what is best for their bodies and their futures. We will bring everything we have until access might be restored.”
“Today, we’re challenging overlapping and contradictory bans on abortion care, including one ban that took effect when William Howard Taft was president and was invalidated before Richard Nixon resigned,” said Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. “Oklahomans deserve abortion access here at home that’s consistent with modern history and modern medicine. Today’s standard of care – as defined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and every credible medical organization – includes abortion services. The government got out of the business of blocking care 49 years ago, and our hope is that Oklahoma’s Supreme Court will recognize what the U.S. Supreme Court seems determined to ignore: the state has no place in private medical decisions.”
“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs has wreaked havoc on our entire region,” said Tamya Cox-Touré, co-chair, Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice. “We now turn to our state Supreme Court to uphold our rights. The cost of these total abortion bans falls hardest on people living with low incomes and people of color, many of whom will not be able to take time off work, find childcare, or afford the cost of travel to go to another state for care. Oklahoma is hurting, and we urge the court to act swiftly.”
“Oklahoma’s constitution is a unique document that provides stronger guarantees of personal liberty than the U.S. Constitution,” said Linda Goldstein, lead counsel and partner at Dechert LLP. “Laws that deprive people of the ability to control their own bodies once they become pregnant cannot be squared with a constitution that was meant to provide Oklahomans with the greatest possible personal freedom.”