Oklahoma Supreme Court throws out four-part pro-life law

In a unanimous decision this week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out more laws that restricted abortion, continuing its pattern of reversing pro-life laws in the state. Senate Bill 642 was ruled to be unconstitutional, the state’s high court ruled. Tulsa World reports:

The law, Senate Bill 642 by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, would require abortion providers to take a sample of the fetal tissue when the abortion patient is younger than 14 and send it to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

The bill was passed as a measure aimed at catching child rapists, its supporters say.

The bill also had other provisions, and UPI notes, “It encompassed four abortion-related topics: parental consent for minors, tissue preservation, inspection of clinics and legal liability of abortion providers.” But the court struck the entire bill:

“We find that each of the four sections of SB 642, lack a common purpose and are not germane, relative and cognate,” Justice Joseph Watt wrote for the nine-member court. “Although each section relates in some way to abortion, the broad sweep of each section does not cure the single subject defects in this bill. Although defendants urge that SB 642 does not constitute logrolling, we find the provisions are so unrelated that those voting on this bill were faced with a constitutionally prohibited all-or-nothing choice to ensure the passage of favorable legislation.”

The Christian Science Monitor notes that the court’s ruling was primarily based on the a law in the Oklahoma constitution that says each law may only address a single subject:

While the state attempted to argue that the law did concern one subject, namely, women’s health, it was eventually unsuccessful.

“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,” Justice Joseph Watt wrote in the court’s opinion

UPI notes that the abortion rights group, The Center for Reproductive Rights, sued the state to block the law, a suit it filed on behalf of Dr. Larry Burns of Norman, Okla., who reportedly performs nearly half of the state’s abortions. And the abortion rights organization says it has bragging rights when it comes to suing to block abortion restrictions in Oklahoma.

The Center for Reproductive Rights said:

The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care in Oklahoma eight times in four years, including a measure which forces women to delay constitutionally protected health care by at least 72 hours and a ban on the most common method of second trimester abortion.  A state court judge blocked the ban last year, but allowed the waiting period to take effect.  The Center is also challenging the state’s Texas-style clinic shutdown law and the state’s most recently passed restrictions on medication abortion.  The Center has a 100% success rate for concluded cases challenging Oklahoma restrictions on reproductive health care services.

The Christian Science Monitor added:

Four judges also argued in a concurring opinion that they would have also called the law a constitutional violation of a woman’s right to an abortion.

Had the court allowed the legislation to stand, any physician found to have performed an abortion could be sentenced to one to three years in jail, and have their license taken away.

Oklahoma’s high court said the bill placed an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions, referring in its ruling to Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down provisions of Texas’ omnibus abortion bill this past year, as well as the precedent behind that law, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

Oklahoma is ranked as the number one pro-life state in the nation this year by Americans United for Life, but it’s seen setbacks such as a new abortion facility moving into the state last month, expanding the number of abortion facilities from two to three; however, with a strong pro-life legislature and governor, it seems a given that the state will continue to enact pro-life laws, no matter how many temporary setbacks it receives.

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