OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Supreme Court is taking on two pieces of anti-abortion legislation that were signed into law last year.
House Bill 4327 prohibits physicians from performing abortions at any point in a pregnancy, unless it is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life.
The law also included an exemption if the pregnancy was the result of rape, sexual assault or incest that had been reported to law enforcement.
Under the law, private citizens can file civil lawsuits up to $10,000 against anyone who performs or assists in performing an abortion. However, it does not allow the woman seeking an abortion to be sued.
Senate Bill 1503, also known as the Oklahoma Heartbeat Act, is a Texas-style anti-abortion law that opens up physicians to civil lawsuits if they perform abortions after cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo – around six weeks of pregnancy.
In Wednesday’s court ruling, the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared that both bills were unconstitutional.
“Pursuant to this Court’s decision in Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice v. Drummond, 2023 OK 24, finding an ‘inherent right of a pregnant woman to terminate a pregnany when necessary to preserve her life,’ we find these two statutes to also be unconstitutional. S.B. 1503 provides even more extreme language then Section 1-731.4, found unconstitutional in Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice v. Drummond, as such, under stare decisis this Court must also find S.B. 1503 unconstitutional,” the court wrote.
Tamya Cox-Toure, co-chair at Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, said the ruling expands access to abortion by giving the decision back to doctors.
“So now doctors and those health care providers can in those moments determine if an abortion is necessary to continue to protect the life of the Oklahoman,” said Cox-Toure.
Both bills were signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt last year.
The author of those bills said justices are playing a “dangerous game” and Wednesday’s ruling is “judicial activism.”
“On Wednesday, a rogue Oklahoma Supreme Court, acting as self-appointed legislators, unleashed another attack on Oklahoma’s unborn children. The court also thumbed its nose at the Legislature and showed their contempt for the separation of powers. These laws ensuring abortionists faced paying damages and the loss of their medical licenses was already precedent in other states, such as Texas. Our court should have dismissed these two lawsuits last year. Instead, they ignored the fact that the government can’t be the defendant under these civil laws.”
Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville
“The court’s ruling today has little to no impact regarding abortion in Oklahoma. The ruling has no authority over Oklahoma’s criminal penalties for doctors who perform an abortion. After the U.S. Supreme Court accurately ruled in 2022 there is no constitutional right to an abortion in the United States, it remains illegal to get an abortion in Oklahoma, unless it is to save the life of the mother. The state Supreme Court continues to ignore precedent set by federal and state law and keeps making political decisions outside their authority. Today’s decision is another example of why comprehensive judicial reform is needed sooner than later. In the meantime, it is important for Oklahomans to know that leaders in the legislature are committed to the right to life in Oklahoma.”Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat
Gov. Kevin Stitt released the following statement after the ruling:
“I again wholeheartedly disagree with the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s use of activism to create a right to an abortion in Oklahoma. This court has once more over-involved itself in the state’s democratic process, and has interceded to undo legislation created by the will of the people. I agree with Justice Rowe’s dissent, ‘The issues presented in this matter are political questions, which are better resolved by the people via our democratic process.
As governor, I will continue to do my part to fight to protect the lives of the unborn. From the moment life begins at conception, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother. Oklahoma will keep working to be the most pro-family state in the nation.”Gov. Kevin Stitt
“While it is disappointing that abortion care remains largely out of reach, the state Supreme Court’s decision today confirms that pregnant Oklahomans in life-threatening situations should get the care they need,” said Priya Desai, Board Member of Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice. “Too many pregnant people in my state have been turned away from care despite facing grave threats to their health and lives. But the fight is not over. We will keep working towards a reality where abortion is available in our home communities once again.”
“Oklahoma lawmakers have passed four abortion bans in the last two years with extremely narrow exceptions. Their lack of concern and empathy for pregnant Oklahomans is frightening,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “These overlapping bans have created a public health crisis in the state—we know pregnant women have been turned away from hospitals and denied medically necessary abortions until they were near death. Today, the Oklahoma Supreme Court reiterated that the state constitution protects the right to abortion in life-threatening situations. It’s time Oklahoma lawmakers stop violating their own constitution and putting lives at risk.”
State Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd sent this statement following the ruling.
“It is important to always remember the Oklahoma Supreme Court is a separate branch of government with equal power to that of the Legislature. The justices are responsible for protecting the Constitution, especially when the Legislature exceeds its bounds. Disputing their ruling undermines the foundation of our democracy.
“Additionally, our colleagues received more than ample warnings that these policies had constitutional issues and were given the opportunity to pursue alternative paths and correct the deficiencies. They chose not to make those corrections. Disavowing the court now is equivalent to yelling at the umpire for a legitimate call at home plate.”St. Sen. Kay Floyd, District 46