OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice (OCRJ) and the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) recently surveyed 34 hospitals in the Sooner State and found the majority could not provide information about procedures, policies, or support for clinicians who decide that an abortion is necessary to save a pregnant patient’s life.

Wednesday News 4 spoke to the study’s co-author, Dr. Michele Heisler, with Physicians for Human Rights.

“We were not expecting that there would be so much confusion and difficulty,” said Heisler.

Last month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined the state statute limiting abortions to those experiencing a medical emergency is unconstitutional.

However, the court upheld a second statute that criminalizes abortion providers unless it is “necessary to preserve her life.”

That statute charges health care providers with a felony and jail time for advising or administering an abortion unless it is necessary to save the patient’s life.

“They’re terrified if they make the wrong decision, it’s a criminal penalty,” said Heisler, about what the new laws mean for a doctor’s approach to patient care.

Even with the court’s nullification of one abortion ban, Oklahoma still has several overlapping anti-abortion laws, all with different definitions and exceptions.

A new study shows those laws have made it increasingly unclear what care remains legal and accessible for those experiencing obstetric emergencies.

The “simulated patient” research from PHR, OCJR and CRR asked two major questions:

  1. Do hospitals have policies/protocols for decision-making when pregnant people face medical emergencies, and are pregnant people in Oklahoma able to receive information on these policies, if they do exist?
  2. If information is provided to prospective patients on hospital policies/protocols, what is the content and quality of that information?

Researchers say 34 out of 37 hospitals offering obstetric care across the state responded.

Of those 34 hospitals, 22 were unable to provide information at all and 14 provided unclear and/or incomplete answers about whether doctors require approval to perform a medically-necessary abortion.

Three hospitals said they have policies but refused to share any information about them.

Hospitals provided opaque, contradictory, and incorrect information about when an abortion is available; lacked clarity on criteria and approval processes for abortions; and offered little reassurance to patients that their survival would be prioritized or that their perspectives would be considered.

Accessing Emergency Obstetrics Information as a Prospective Prenatal Patient in Post-Roe Oklahoma

Three hospitals stated they do not provide abortions at all.

Another three provided misinformation

“One of the callers was told that nowhere in the state of Oklahoma can you get an abortion for any reason, which is not true because there are exceptions,” said Heisler.

We reached out to the state department of health, and Mercy and Integris hospitals for comment but have not heard back as of the latest update to this story.

According to the study’s executive summary, one of the simulated patients was told that a pregnant patient’s body would be used as an “incubator” to carry the baby as long as possible.

One Oklahoma mother told NPR about her attempt to find life-saving abortion care in the Sooner State.


Oklahoma Politics

She said her cancerous molar pregnancy required a dilation and curettage, or D&C, but after trying three different hospitals in Oklahoma, she was forced to travel to Kansas for treatment.

“The study’s findings demonstrate that despite apparently good-faith efforts from most hospital representatives, callers could not access clear and accurate information about the care they would receive if facing a pregnancy-related medical emergency at any given institution. Moreover, the information they received was often confusing – at some hospitals, callers received conflicting information from separate staff within the same hospital,” the study concludes. “These findings also underscore how health care providers in Oklahoma are placed in a situation of dual loyalty, forcing them to balance their obligation to provide ethical, high-quality medical care against the threat of legal and professional sanctions.”

At the start of the current legislative session, Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, proposed a bill to clarify Oklahoma’s abortion ban exceptions. However, that bill never made it past committee approval.