- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An attorney for a Norman abortion provider told an Oklahoma Supreme Court referee Friday that he will have to close his practice next week unless the court blocks a law that takes effect Saturday requiring abortion providers to have a physician with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital present when abortions are performed.

Ilene Jaroslaw of the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights told referee Daniel Karim that Dr. Larry Burns has sought admitting privileges at several hospitals but that his requests have been denied. Applications are pending at three additional hospitals, but Jaroslaw said chances are slim that Burns will be granted admitting privileges.

“If the law takes effect, Dr. Burns will be forced to close his medical practice,” Jaroslaw said. “That is a real and substantial harm to the women of Oklahoma as well as to Dr. Burns.” Burns performs 44 percent of all abortions in the state and is one of only three providers.

A Supreme Court referee hears preliminary arguments in cases that seek relief from the court and recommends a course of action.

Jaroslaw said the law should be prevented from taking effect while a lawsuit filed on Burns’ behalf that alleges it is unconstitutional is litigated. Karim said he will make his recommendation to members of the state’s highest court as soon as possible but it was not immediately clear when the court might hand down a decision.

Jaroslam and Assistant Attorney General Dan Weitman made oral presentations one week after Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Graves rejected Burns’ request to enjoin the new statute. Graves said Burns was not timely in his attempts to seek admitting privileges. Similar laws have been passed in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Among other things, Burns’ lawsuit alleges the law contains multiple subjects in spite of the state Constitution’s requirement that legislation be confined to a single subject. Jaroslaw has said the law encompasses six different and distinct subjects.

The lawsuit also alleges the law unconstitutionally singles out abortion providers for the admitting privileges requirement when other physicians who perform riskier out-patient procedures do not have to comply.

Jaroslaw said less than 1 percent of women who have abortions experience complications and the requirement does nothing to advance a woman’s health.

But Weitman argued that the state say it has an interest in helping women who experience complications during an abortion. Nationally, 13,000 women experience complications following abortion procedures every year, he said.

Weitman said the statute complies with the constitution’s single-subject rule in that all of its provisions deal with abortion. He also said Burns waited more than 50 days after the measure was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin before he began seeking hospital admitting privileges.

“He was not diligent in pursuing his admitting privileges,” Weitman said. “The court should not be bailing him out.”

The reproductive rights group has also asked the Supreme Court to block another new law scheduled to take effect Saturday that restricts the use of certain abortion-inducing drugs. No hearing has been scheduled.

The new statute would prohibit off-label uses of abortion-inducing drugs by requiring doctors to administer them only in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocols.

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