Oklahoma has some of the most restrictive, controversial abortion laws in the nation, and earlier this year, state legislators voted to make them even stricter. Oklahoma’s new abortion law, which came with a slew of potentially unconstitutional restrictions and penalties, would have gone after abortion providers in the state.
In a nutshell, SB 642 would have allowed for the criminal prosecution of abortion providers who violated any of the state’s abortion laws (and in Oklahoma, there are a lot of them), would have allowed for criminal charges against anyone who helped a girl under 14-years-old obtain an abortion without her parent’s consent, required the collection and preservation of fetal tissue when the patient was under 14-years-old, and created tougher regulations for abortion providers.
On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously struck down the new Oklahoma abortion law, reports RT. According to the state Supreme Court, the reason for striking down the controversial new abortion law was twofold.
Primarily, the Oklahoma Supreme Court justices found the new abortion law to have been written in a such a manner that it violated the state’s own constitution. In Oklahoma, every new piece of legislation must be concise and directed at a single subject. According to the state’s Supreme Court, the new abortion law did not meet that very specific requirement.
Secondarily, the controversial new Oklahoma abortion law was rejected by the state’s Supreme Court for much the same reason that the SCOTUS struck down several proposed abortion laws in Texas and other states over the summer. According to the justices, the new Oklahoma abortion law’s proposed restrictions on abortion providers would place “undue restrictions” on abortion providers in the state.
“We reject defendants’ arguments and find this legislation violates the single subject rule as each of these sections is so unrelated and misleading that a legislator voting on this matter could have been left with an unpalatable all-or-nothing choice.”
The Oklahoma Supreme Court also expressed concern that the new abortion law would give unprecedented and potentially unconstitutional new power to the state’s attorney general and/or “a district attorney, or any person adversely affected” by someone who was affected by the new, now-defunct Oklahoma law, specifically the portion dealing with the forced collection and preservation of aborted fetal tissue.
According to a spokesperson for the current Oklahoma attorney general, forcing the collection and preservation of aborted fetal tissue in cases where the patient seeking the abortion is under 14 would have helped in the prosecution of child rapists (the fetal DNA could be tested to determine the father).
“This law would have given law enforcement the ability to more easily prosecute sexual assaults of children that are discovered when a child under 14 has an abortion.”
Rape is a very real problem in the State of Oklahoma; the state ranks 12th in the United States when it comes to rape reports per capita. However, few legal experts believed that the controversial new Oklahoma abortion law would have been an effective tool in prosecuting more child rapists. In addition to dealing with a large number of rapes, Oklahoma is also notoriously negligent when it comes to following up with rape kits. Reportedly, the state currently has nearly 4,000 untested rape kits in its backlog.
This isn’t the only Oklahoma abortion law to be struck down in 2016. In May, a highly controversial Oklahoma abortion bill was vetoed by the state’s conservative Republican governor, Mary Fallin. As the Washington Post reports, that Oklahoma abortion bill also harshly targeted abortion providers. It would have made it a felony for anyone to perform an abortion in the State of Oklahoma, and it allowed for no exemptions in cases of rape, incest, or the health of the gestating woman. Abortions would only have been allowed to save the life of a gestating woman.
Any doctor convicted of breaking the law would have faced from one to three years in an Oklahoma prison and the loss of their medical license.
Fortunately for Oklahoma residents, even the state’s highly conservative pro-life governor realized that the law was a violation of established U.S. abortion law and precedent, and she conceded that the law was highly unlikely to withstand legal challenges.
“The bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered ‘necessary to preserve the life of the mother.”
Oklahoma’s now-defunct new abortion law, SB 642, seemed to have been drafted in a last-ditch effort to reclaim some of what the state’s legislature lost when Governor Fallin vetoed the previous bill.
Currently, Oklahoma women face dire restrictions and various impediments if they try to access safe, legal abortion in their own state. Oklahoma had only two operating abortion clinics when Fallin vetoed the unconstitutional abortion bill in May. Both of those are constantly under threat from the state’s pro-life governor and legislators.
Despite the constant threat posed to women’s rights by the State of Oklahoma, Makers reports that the state opened its first new abortion clinic in 40 years last month.
It is likely that the next Oklahoma legislative session will see more anti-choice, anti-abortion legislation attempts. The four Republican lawmakers who authored SB 642, Representative Mike Ritze and Senators Dan Newberry, Ralph Shortey, and Ron Sharp, are reportedly furious that their pro-life legislation was so unequivocally shot down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
“One of the underlying duties of the legislative process is to protect life and the most essential life is in the mother’s womb, the baby. What is more essential to government than to protect life and protect good and suppress evil and punish evil. That’s when you boil it down to brass tacks that’s the role of government.”
KOTV reports that it is very likely that a rewritten version of the Oklahoma abortion law will be introduced in the state’s next legislative session next year.
[Featured Image by a katz/Shutterstock]