Bill Restricting Abortion Goes to Oklahoma House

February 15, 2017
By David Lee

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – A bill requiring written consent of the father of a fetus for an abortion advanced out of committee Tuesday afternoon, paving the way for a vote before the full Oklahoma House of Representatives.

By 5-2 vote without any debate, the House Public Health Committee approved House Bill 1441, which would ban abortions “without the written informed consent of the father” of the fetus.

“A pregnant woman seeking to abort her pregnancy shall be required to provide, in writing, the identity of the father of the fetus to the physician who is to perform or induce the abortion,” the bill states. “If the person identified as the father of the fetus challenges the fact that he is the father, such an individual may demand that a paternity test be performed.”

The author, Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, told the committee his bill “simply tries to add father into the process and tried to bring him into the conversation” of an abortion.

“My bill will stop an abortion if he does not agree to the abortion,” he said at the hearing.

Humphrey told reporters afterward he thought “we did the right thing.”

“The thing that I wanted to spark to debate is that fathers have a role,” he said. “What exactly that role is, I’m not sure. This is a very difficult bill, a very trying bill with passion from both sides.”

Humphrey said he was not sure of the bill’s chances of passage or that “it ever meets constitutional muster,” but said thinks he is starting “the right debate” by discussing a potential father’s rights, particularly his financial responsibility from pregnancy onward.

In an interview published Monday by The Intercept, Humphrey referred to pregnant women as “hosts.”

“And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host, and so, you know, if you pre-know that, then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant,” he said. “So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host and you invited that in.”

Reaction to H.B. 1441 was swift, as pro-choice activists blasted the measure as delaying an Oklahoma woman’s right to seek abortion by several weeks on top of a mandatory delay of at least three days.

The Center for Reproductive Rights called the bill “unequivocally unconstitutional,” saying it defies the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That 5-4 ruling concluded that a requirement in Pennsylvania for a woman to notify her spouse of an abortion was unconstitutional.

“It is shameful that Oklahoma politicians advanced this measure, which is demeaning, patently unconstitutional, and puts women in abusive relationships at risk,” said Amanda Allen, the group’s senior state legislative counsel. “We call on the Oklahoma legislature to reject this outrageous measure and trust women to make their own healthcare decisions.”

From Courthouse News.

Okla. Lawmakers Pass Bill Outlawing Abortion

May 20, 2016
By David Lee
OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – In defiance of Roe v. Wade, the Oklahoma Senate passed a first-of-its-kind bill Thursday that makes it a felony for a doctor to perform an abortion.
Senate Bill 1552 was passed by a 33-12 vote without debate. Sponsored by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, the bill directly contradicts U.S. Supreme Court precedent that such bans on abortion are unconstitutional. Doctors would also face the possibility of losing their medical license under the bill.
The bill now awaits the signature of Republican Gov. Mary Fallin to be passed into law.
The Oklahoma House approved the bill 59-9 last month. Both chambers of the Legislature are controlled by Republicans.
Dahm told the House last month that his bill is “not about policy. It’s not about politics. It’s about principle.”
Sen. Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City, the Senate’s only physician, told the Tulsa World that the bill is “insane” and that it would definitely lose in a lawsuit.
The Center for Reproductive Rights has sued the state several times in recent years over its passage of increasingly restrictive abortion laws. The group urged Fallin to veto the “blatantly unconstitutional” bill.
“This bill will almost certainly lead to expensive court challenges that the state of Oklahoma simply cannot defend in light of longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” the group wrote in a four-page letter Thursday. “We urge you to veto this bill.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights says the bill “the most extreme abortion law in the country” since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
“Since Governor Fallin took office in 2011, she has signed 18 bills restricting access to reproductive health care services, including a Texas-style clinic shutdown law, a ban on the most common method of second trimester abortion, unconstitutional restrictions on medication abortion, and a law that forces abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and display and describe the image,” the group said in a statement Thursday. “Each of these laws have been blocked by courts; in fact, the Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care in Oklahoma eight times in five years.”
Fallin has not said whether she will sign the bill. She has five days to veto it before it automatically becomes law.

From Courthouse News.

Okla. Supreme Court OKs Abortion Restrictions

February 24, 2016
By David Lee
OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a state law that bans off-label use of abortion drugs, but acknowledged that restrictions on abortions harm women’s health.
In a 6-1 ruling, the nine-member court reversed a trial court ruling that House Bill2684 violates the Oklahoma Constitution. Chief Justice Tom Colbert and Justice Joseph Watt did not vote.
“We also must recognize that, by the states’ own evidentiary materials, more restrictions on abortions result in higher complication rates and in decreased women’s safety,” the 23-page opinion states. “Because H.B. 2684 is the only effective Oklahoma legislation restricting abortion at this time, we need not address the impact of future abortion-related restrictions on H.B. 2684’s constitutionality.”
The trial court upheld the law, but suspended portions that subjected abortion providers to legal liability
The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and Tulsa Nova Health Services sued the state in September 2014, claiming the law denies due process and equal protection to women seeking medication-based abortion.
They said the law illegally delegates authority to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by requiring physicians who provide mifepristone and misoprostol for abortions to comply with out-of-date FDA protocols.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt appealed the trial court ruling in November, saying H.B. 2684 is not an unconstitutional special law nor does it violate equal protection because it regulates all similarly situated drugs in the same manner.
“Even if H.B. 2684 is a special law, it is ‘reasonably and substantially’ related to the protection to the protection of material health, and is thus permissible,” his brief stated.
The high court agreed, finding the law does not illegally delegate to the FDA because it restricts the use of only mifeprex, misoprostol and methotrexate when they are used to induce abortions.
“In doing so, it does not allow the FDA any authority,” the opinion states. “Simply, H.B. 2684 is not unconstitutional as an improper delegation of legislative authority.”
The high court agreed with the plaintiffs that H.B. 2684 is a special law, but said it is permissible “as the legislative aims are reasonably and substantially related to the class H.B. 2684 seeks to protect.”
Pruitt said he was “pleased” with the ruling.
“The off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs has resulted in catastrophic consequences for women nationwide, and I appreciate the Oklahoma Legislature’s efforts to protect the health and safety of Oklahoma women over the interests of the abortion industry,” he said in a statement.

From Courthouse News.

Oklahoma Bill Requires Anti-Abortion Curriculum

February 18, 2016
By David Lee
OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – A subcommittee in the Oklahoma Legislature this week approved a bill that would require anti-abortion curriculum in public high schools.
The Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education on Monday approved House Bill 2797, the “Humanity of the Unborn Child Act.”
Written by Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, the bill states: “the Legislature hereby affirms that it is the public policy of the State of Oklahoma to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion.”
Coody cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1977 ruling in Maher v. Roe, which states that the U.S. Constitution imposes “no limitations on the authority of a state to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion, and to implement that judgment by the allocation of public funds.”
The bill seeks to develop and distribute educational materials for “the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society” and “consistently teach that abortion kills a living human being and is against public policy.”
The bill is a top priority of Oklahomans for Life, Coody said.
The group’s director, Tony Lauinger, told the subcommittee he did not know how the curriculum component would be implemented, nor did he state what the public service announcements would look or sound like, according to the Tulsa World newspaper.
Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, asked Coody why the bill did not address sex education.
“If this is really to lower the number of abortions, why would sex education and contraception not be part of it?” Dunnington said.
“There is only one sure prevention of pregnancy, and that’s not to cause it in the first place,” Coody responded. “The killing of a human being is murder, plain and simple.”
If approved, the bill will take effect on Nov. 1.
Coody said the bill will not be implemented this year due to budget constraints, but it would put the Legislature’s position on abortion on the record.
Coody, who was first elected in 2004, will be termed out this year.

From Courthouse News.

Judge Sides With Oklahoma in Abortion Fight

February 12, 2016
By David Lee
OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – A judge upheld an Oklahoma law Thursday requiring a doctor with admitting privileges to a local hospital to be present during abortions – but the state Supreme Court’s stay on its enforcement remains in effect.
State District Judge Don Andrews granted Oklahoma’s motion for summary judgment and rejected plaintiff Dr. Larry A. Burns’ request for partial summary judgment.
Andrews wrote that the state “has a legitimate, constitutionally recognized interest in protecting women’s health.”
“Requiring physicians to maintain admitting privileges to a hospital furthers that interest inasmuch as the physician must demonstrate competency in the surgical procedures that they perform,” the 11-page opinion states.
“It is rational for the Legislature to conclude that this requirement would advance the state’s compelling interest in patient care and safety. Oklahoma’s Constitution does not forbid the Legislature from taking rational, reasonable steps toward improved patient care and safety.”
Andrews said the purpose of Oklahoma Senate Bill 1848 “is not to place an obstacle between a woman and her ability to receive an abortion. Rather, it is a protection mechanism to ensure that she receives prompt and efficient health care, when necessary.”
Dr. Burns, of Norman, says he performs half of the abortions in Oklahoma. Represented by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, he sued the state in October 2014, saying that S.B. 1848 would effectively put him out of business.
Andrews rejected Burns procedural due process claim, saying the doctor had 155 days between passage of S.B. 1848 and its enactment to satisfy the law’s admitting privilege requirement.
“Moreover, the plaintiff’s failure to receive admitting privileges is unrelated to the Legislature’s proscibed period of time to comply,” the opinion states. “Plaintiff also asserts that he is prevented from seeking review of the hospital’s decision not to grant admitting privileges. However, since hospitals are private entities, plaintiff is not entitled to due process regarding their decision.”
Andrews also rejected Burns’ due process claims on the right to an abortion, saying the Oklahoma Supreme Court has declined to find a state constitutional right to abortion, so he must rely upon federal law.
“Following ‘strict scrutiny’ analysis under federal standards, S.B. 1848 is permissible because it does not place an ‘undue burden’ on a woman’s ability to have an abortion, but advances the state’s legitimate interest of promoting patient health and safety,” the opinion states.”
However, the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s stay, preventing S.B. 1848 from taking, effect remains in place.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt said he was “pleased that the court agreed” the law is constitutional.
“The law requires abortion facilities to follow health and safety protocols similar to those for outpatient surgical centers and birthing centers,” Pruitt said in a statement. “The attorney general’s office will continue to defend this law and others enacted to protect Oklahomans’ health and safety.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights said it would appeal, calling S.B. 1848 a “Texas-style clinic shutdown law.”
The center’s president and CEO, Nancy Northrup, said the ruling “turns a blind eye to the very real harms” that will affect Oklahoma women when the law takes effect.
“Whether in Oklahoma, Texas or elsewhere, clinic shutdown laws are unconstitutional and a direct threat to women’s health,” Northrup said in a statement. “We vow to appeal today’s ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and continue to stand against these sham laws.” Burns filed a separate lawsuit against the state in November 2015, challenging S.B. 642, which imposes felony penalties on abortion providers if they help minors get abortions without parental consent, among other things.
Burns claims that four differing provisions in the law have a “hodgepot character” that violates the state constitution’s single-subject mandate.
State District Judge Thomas E. Prince rejected Burns’ motion for summary judgment in January, concluding that each section was “germane” to the law’s title and relative to one another.

From Courthouse News.

Oklahoma Judge OKs Criminal Abortion Law

January 14, 2016
By David Lee
OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – An Oklahoma law that imposes criminal penalties on abortion providers is permissible under the state constitution, a state judge ruled Wednesday.
State District Judge Thomas E. Prince dismissed Dr. Larry A. Burns’ motion for summary judgment and granted Commissioner of Health Terry L. Cline and Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn’s cross-motion for summary judgment.
Burns sued in November in Oklahoma County Court, claiming Senate Bill 642 violates the Oklahoma Constitution’s single-subject mandate.
He called the law a result of “classic log-rolling” that forces legislators to vote for unwanted provisions to get another provision enacted.
Burns says the bill’s four differing provisions give it a “hodgepot character.”
Section 1 levies criminal and civil penalties for helping a minor get an abortion without parental consent;
Section 2 requires girls younger than 14 to submit fetal tissue samples to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for rape investigation;
Section 3 allows the Department of Health to conduct unannounced searches of abortion facilities;
Section 4 deems anyone who violates S.B. 642 guilty of a felony, punishable by fines of up $100,000 per day of violation.
But Judge Prince found each sections “germane” to the law’s title and relative to each other.
“The title of Senate Bill 642 states its subject to be as follows: ‘Abortion procedure compliance requirements,'” the 4-page ruling states. “A review of the plain meaning of the four sections of Senate Bill 642 shows that each provision ‘reflect[s] a common, closely akin theme or purpose’ intended to expand the available enforcement mechanisms for redress of violations of the various laws that regulate abortions.”
Prince said the claim of “log-rolling” cannot be separated from this “germaneness” test.
“The Oklahoma Supreme Court has consistently described the term ‘log-rolling’ as a tactical legislative maneuver that applies or is applicable only in the event that the ‘germaneness’ test (for the single-subject rule) has been violated,” the judge wrote. “Because the court has determined that the ‘germaneness’ test has been satisfied, the plaintiff’s claim of ‘log-rolling’ is, correspondingly, rejected.”
The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s Nov. 16 stay on enforcement of the law, pending further order of the state supreme court, is unaffected by Wednesday’s order, Prince said.
Burns is represented by attorneys with the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which has sued Oklahoma at least eight times since 2010 over its abortion restrictions . Group president and CEO Nancy Northup in November called the law a “cynical and politically motivated” attack on women’s health.

From Courthouse News.

Oklahoma Takes Abortion Drug Off-Label Use to High Court

November 6, 2015
By David Lee
OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – Oklahoma’s attorney general asked the state supreme court to uphold a ban on off-label uses for abortion drugs, claiming it protects women.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a brief Wednesday seeking to uphold House Bill 2684, which requires abortion clinics to prescribe abortion-inducing drugs for uses approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Pruitt claims abortion providers continue to use off-label methods for mifepristone and misoprostol to “save time, money and effort” in spite of FDA warnings about such uses.
“I am hopeful the Oklahoma Supreme Court will choose to side with the health and safety of Oklahoma women over the interests of the abortion industry,” Pruitt said in a statement Thursday. “The off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs has resulted in at least eight deaths nationwide and poses a significant threat to Oklahoma women.”
Pruitt’s filing comes in a case the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and Tulsa Nova Health Services filed in September 2014 against the state, claiming the law unconstitutionally denies due process and equal protection to women seeking medication-based abortion.
State District Judge Roger H. Stuart declined to block the law from taking effect one month later, but suspended sections that subject abortion providers to legal liability.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court soon after granted a temporary injunction stopping enforcement of the law while its constitutionality is litigated in the lower courts.
Pruitt’s brief concedes that the FDA lacks statutory authority to regulate medicine and ensure the safe use of abortion drugs, but says the Oklahoma Legislature has that authority.
He says H.B. 2684 was passed to legislatively overrule the courts’ interpretation of an earlier law – House Bill 1970 – that sought to ban all medication abortions and clarify that the state is not banning all medication abortions.
“Thus, H.B. 2684 re-enacted the prohibition of the off-label use of abortion drugs that has led to countless infections and numerous deaths, while still ensuring that those drugs may be prescribed according to regimens that have been approved by the FDA, such as the regimen on the mifepristone label,” Pruitt wrote in the 38-page brief.
Pruitt said H.B. 2684 is not an unconstitutional special law nor does it violate equal protection because it regulates all similarly situated drugs in the same manner.
“Even if H.B. 2684 is a special law, it is ‘reasonably and substantially’ related to the protection to the protection of material health, and is thus permissible,” the brief states.
Federal appeals courts in Texas and Ohio have upheld laws similar to H.B. 2684, Pruitt said.

From Courthouse News.