Judge's Ruling: Oklahoma's 2008 Abortion Law in Violation of Provision

By Price, Marie | THE JOURNAL RECORD, August 19, 2009 | Go to article overview

Judge's Ruling: Oklahoma's 2008 Abortion Law in Violation of Provision


Price, Marie, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Oklahoma's 2008 abortion law violates a constitutional provision prohibiting multiple-subject legislation, Oklahoma County District Judge Vicki Robertson held Tuesday.

Robertson granted a partial summary judgment in favor of the challenger of the law, Nova Health Systems, which operates Reproductive Services of Tulsa. Stating that the law is "void and of no effect," the judge also granted a permanent injunction against its enforcement.

Gov. Brad Henry vetoed the legislation, which he said made no exceptions for victims of rape and incest, but lawmakers overrode his veto.

Special Assistant Attorney General Teresa Collett said she would need to consult with her clients, who include several state officials, before deciding whether to appeal Robertson's decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

"It defies common sense that the state cannot protect women's health with these measures," Collett said.

Attorney Stephanie Toti, with the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, spoke for the plaintiffs.

"We knew from the beginning that the law violated the Oklahoma Constitution," Toti said.

Toti said her clients hope that after Robertson's ruling the Legislature will "recognize the rights of women under the constitution and will strongly consider the other constitutional claims that we've raised here, and will think twice before enacting some of these provisions again."

She indicated that if lawmakers pass another such law, it also will be challenged.

One part of the law requires a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound within an hour of the procedure and to have its findings explained. Having declared the law unconstitutional on other grounds, Robertson did not rule on that provision.

"The ultrasound provision takes away a patient's choice about whether or not to do an ultrasound," Toti said. "It requires physicians to provide information to their patients that the physicians do not believe is medically necessary. So it's an affront to women's autonomy and decision-making power. It's also an intrusion into the physician-patient relationship."

Although the ruling addresses only Oklahoma law, Toti said the center hopes it "will send a signal to other state legislatures, that if they violate their constitution, if they enact laws that trample on women's rights, those laws will not be sustained."

Toti said she is not disappointed that Robertson ruled on only the single-subject violation. …

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