- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An Oklahoma abortion provider who performs 44 percent of all abortions in the state has tried without success to comply with a new state law requiring abortion clinics to have a physician with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital present when abortions are performed, his attorney told an Oklahoma County judge Friday.

Attorney Ilene Jaroslaw of the Center for Reproductive Rights said Dr. Larry Burns of Norman has made “diligent efforts” to comply with the law and has applied for admitting privileges at 16 hospitals. None has admitted him and two turned him down because he could not commit to admitting at least six patients a year, which Jaroslaw said is a testimonial to the quality of care Burns provides.

“Dr. Burns has an impeccable health record. He is good at what he does,” Jaroslaw said. Yet, Burns is faced with the possibility of having to shut down his practice when the new law goes into effect on Nov. 1, Jaroslaw told District Judge Bill Graves.

“He’s made good efforts to comply with the law,” Jaroslaw said. She said the law’s requirements are “very onerous” and unconstitutional and asked Graves to grant an injunction to block the law from going into effect.

Assistant Attorney General Dan Weitman argued that the law, which was approved by the Legislature this spring and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in May, should be allowed to go into effect. Weitman said the Legislature has an interest in helping women who experience complications during an abortion procedure.

Weitman said Burns waited more than 50 days after the law was signed before he began seeking hospital admitting privileges.

Graves did not immediately hand down a ruling and said he will try to decide whether to issue an injunction by next week.

The New York-based abortion rights group filed a lawsuit that challenges the law’s constitutionality. Among other things, Jaroslaw said the law contains multiple subjects in spite of the state Constitution’s requirement that legislation be confined to a single subject. She said the law encompasses six different and distinct subjects.

“This violates the single-subject rule,” she said.

Weitman countered that all requirements in the law pertain to the practice of abortion and that it complies with the constitutional mandate.

Jaroslaw also alleged the law unconstitutionally singles out abortion providers for the admitting privileges requirement when other physicians who perform riskier procedures do not have to comply. She said fewer than 1 percent of women who have abortions experience complications and the requirement does nothing to advance a woman’s health.

A similar law in Texas has already been allowed to proceed by a federal appeals court, but in August, a lower court carved out exceptions that prohibit it from being enforced along the southern border with Mexico and in El Paso - places where access to abortion is especially limited. The state is appealing.

A hearing is scheduled next week in a separate lawsuit filed by a Tulsa medical clinic that seeks to void an Oklahoma law that restricts the use of abortion-inducing drugs, alleging it is an unconstitutional violation of a woman’s right to choose to end her pregnancy.

That suit was filed on behalf of Reproductive Services, a clinic that provides both surgical and medication-induced abortions.


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