- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An abortion rights group asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Thursday to overturn a 2014 law that it says was designed to shut down abortion clinics in the state.

The law, which hasn’t taken effect because of a temporary injunction, would only allow abortions to be performed if a physician with local hospital admitting privileges is present.

Oklahoma County District Judge Don Andrews upheld the law last month, rejecting The Center for Reproductive Rights’ argument that it was an unconstitutional special law meant to shut down abortion clinics. He said the law doesn’t single out abortion providers or their patients and that the state “has a legitimate, constitutionally recognized interest in protecting women’s health.”

Andrews allowed the injunction to remain in place while the case was appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which is based in New York, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Larry Burns, a Norman physician who performs nearly half of Oklahoma’s abortions. The group said Burns would likely have to close his practice if the law takes effect. The other clinic in the state that performs abortions is Reproductive Services of Tulsa.

Burns has said he applied for admitting privileges at hospitals in the Oklahoma City area but had not been approved by any facility. Two turned him down because he could not commit to admitting at least six patients a year, according to the organization.

But Andrews said the admitting privileges requirement can be met in other ways, “such as hiring another physician, merging his practice or making some other change to the way he has traditionally practiced.”

Statistics provided during arguments indicate that nationally, less than 1 percent of women who have abortions in the U.S. each year experience complications.

Will Gattenby, a spokesman for state Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said in an emailed statement that Pruitt’s office had successfully defended the law in district court “and will continue to defend it.”

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on March 2 concerning the constitutionality of a similar law in Texas.

As in Oklahoma, officials in Texas claim they are trying to protect women’s health in requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Opponents say the requirement would cut the number of abortion clinics in Texas by three-fourths.

Legislation restricting abortion in Oklahoma has been challenged eight times in the past five years by the New York-based group.

Last month, the state Supreme Court ruled that a state law the group challenged that restricts the use of abortion-inducing drugs does not violate some parts of the state constitution but could still be struck down on other constitutional grounds.

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