The Oklahoma Supreme Court has unanimously struck down another pro-life law. The high court on Tuesday nixed Senate Bill 1848, the 2014 admitting privileges law signed by pro-life Governor Mary Fallin. The law required a physician committing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility.
The case, Burns v. Cline, was filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of Norman, Oklahoma, abortionist, Larry A. Burns, who brought the case after he could not obtain admitting privileges at any hospital where he applied. Burns prevailed.
The court opined that SB 1848 is unconstitutional and also violates the Oklahoma state constitution, writing:
This legislation contains one section with 12 separate and unrelated sub-sections, A to L. Under the guise of the protection of women’s health, SB 1848 requires an abortion facility to have a physician on premises who also has hospital admission privileges within 30 miles of the facility, on any day an abortion is performed. We reverse the district court’s findings and hold the statute unconstitutional because it creates an undue burden on women’s access to abortion, violating protected rights under our federal Constitution, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt,… and also under the Oklahoma single subject rule….
Every woman in this country has a constitutionally protected right to choose whether to terminate her pregnancy before viability. This right is protected from undo interference from the State. Although the State has a legitimate interest in protecting the health of a woman, legislation may be found unconstitutional where the purpose or effect creates an undue burden or obstacle to a woman seeking a lawful abortion.
The ruling then proceeds to discuss the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision and how the court believes it impacts the Oklahoma law.
SB 1848 contains the same offending admitted privileges requirement examined in Hellerstedt. The record before us demonstrates that despite Burns’ diligent efforts, he was unable to obtain admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of his clinic. Burns applied to at least 16 different hospitals and either received no response or was rejected because: (1) he lacked board certification and/or (2) he was unable to meet the requirement of admitting the minimum number of six patients per year. Burns’ medical specialty does not have a recognized board certification making him unable to meet this qualification.
Indeed, Burns is not an M.D., but a D.O., a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. A D.O. is a medical license that focuses on “special training in the musculoskeletal system, your body’s interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones,” the American Osteopathic Association explains. And while abortion itself is not a board-certified medical specialty, obstetrics and gynecology is, and many OB/GYNs have received specialized abortion training and do have admitting privileges to hospitals. A number of hospitals believe that Burns’ medical certification is not an appropriate qualification to grant him admitting privileges for the type of medicine he chooses to practice.
But Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, somehow dismisses Burns’ lack of the expected type of medical license, claiming the victory is justice for women:
Whether in Oklahoma, Texas or elsewhere, allowing politicians to trample women’s rights by shutting down clinics is not only wrong–it’s dangerous. Today’s decision is a victory for Oklahoma women and another rebuke to politicians pushing underhanded laws that attack a woman’s constitutionally guaranteed right to safe, legal abortion. We will continue to stand with Oklahoma women in beating back these relentless political schemes designed to make the right to safe, legal abortion a right that only exists on paper.
That victory may be short lived, however, according to a new report by Americans United for Life. In its recently released Unsafe: How The Public Health Crisis in America’s Abortion Clinics Endangers Women, AUL addresses the potential public health crisis in light of the Hellerstedt ruling:
Moreover, with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, prioritizing “mere access” to abortion facilities and abortion industry profitability over women’s health and safety, we can expect the problems may get worse. It will certainly get worse unless pro-life Americans and their representatives take immediate action to confront and remedy the abortion industry’s dangerous practices and the rejection of medically appropriate health and safety standards of patient care. .
The AUL report then tells of horror stories that happened when doctors don’t have admitting privileges, such as the case of Dr. Steven Brigham, an infamous abortionist without admitting privileges. His failure to obtain privileges contributed to a teenage patient being “seriously damaged” by Brigham’s crimes. As AUL reports,
In November 2014, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners found Brigham guilty of several counts of gross negligence, “dishonesty, deception or misrepresentation,” and “professional misconduct.” The Board concluded that Brigham engaged in the unlicensed practice of medicine in Maryland and noted that “every patient treated in New Jersey by Dr. Brigham was placed in harm’s way” by his illegal practice. The Board further concluded that Brigham’s patients “were further exposed to substantial risk of harm because Dr. Brigham held no hospital or [licensed ambulatory care facility (LACF)] privileges…” Lacking privileges meant that Brigham “had nowhere in New Jersey (or any other state) where he could go to complete the termination procedures in the event of any emergency or unforeseen complications.” The Board found that Brigham had no contingency plan for his patients “beyond possibly assuming that the patient would then be rushed to a hospital emergency room and have their care (and presumably their abortion procedures) completed by a physician who had no relationship with Dr. Brigham or the patient.” (Page 11)
Thanks to Burns, women in Oklahoma are now at more serious risk should they decide to have an abortion. While many abortions may not have medical complications, apart from the obvious destruction of a unique human life, dangerous and life-threatening situations — such as the Brigham case and others discussed in the AUL report — are reality. Women choosing abortion also choose to take a risk to be the next medical statistic of tragedy when they entrust their care to physicians who are not even board-certified in OB/GYN medicine and could not be admitted to a hospital if a complication occurred.
The state of Oklahoma has now helped to endanger abortion-minded women with its ruling.