- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An abortion rights group filed a lawsuit Friday challenged the constitutionality of an Oklahoma anti-abortion law set to take effect Nov. 1, arguing that the new regulations will affect a woman’s ability to receive “safe and legal abortion care in the state of Oklahoma.”

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Larry Burns of Norman, who performs nearly half of Oklahoma’s abortions and has been in practice for more than four decades.

The lawsuit asks the Oklahoma Supreme Court to invalidate and block enforcement of the new law, which was overwhelmingly adopted by the Republican-controlled Legislature this spring and signed into law by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin in June.

The lawsuit alleges the measure violates the Oklahoma Constitution’s requirement that legislation cover a single subject. The law encompasses four abortion-related topics: minors and parental consent; tissue preservation; inspection and investigation of clinics; and criminal and civil liability for abortion providers.

Citing language from the state’s constitution, the lawsuit argues that the new law “contains multiple subjects that are not ‘germane, relative and cognate to a readily apparent common theme and purpose.’” That means a lawmaker who favored one aspect of the legislation but opposed others would be forced into an “all-or-nothing choice” when deciding how to vote, the group argues.



A spokesman for Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office, Aaron Cooper, said Friday that attorneys will review the lawsuit and respond to its allegations. The measure’s principal author, Sen. Greg treat, R-Oklahoma City, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

The measure’s principal author, Sen. Greg Treat, said the legislation was intended to strengthen informed-consent laws.

“It’s about women’s health, in this case about minor girls, people who have been taken advantage of sexually,” the Oklahoma City Republican said.

The legislation expands the scope of existing law that makes it a crime to help a minor obtain an abortion, in violation of laws involving parental consent. It also requires abortion providers to preserve fetal tissue from a procedure performed on a girl under age 14 and submit the tissue to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

In addition, it requires the Oklahoma Department of Health to establish policies and procedures for licensing-related inspections with broad authority to enter and inspect an abortion facility. The law also establishes criminal and civil penalties, as well as civil liability, for violation of abortion-related statutes.

While Treat and other supporters argued that the regulations were designed to protect women’s health, the lawsuit alleges the Oklahoma law encompasses legislative recommendations from the Washington-based anti-abortion group Americans United for Life.

The lawsuit is the second suit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights on Burns’ behalf, and marks the seventh time in the past five years it has filed legal challenges against abortion restrictions in Oklahoma. The state Supreme Court temporarily blocked a clinic shutdown law from taking effect in November 2014, and a district court judge blocked restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs last month.

An Oklahoma County judge has scheduled a hearing in February in an earlier lawsuit filed on Burns’ behalf that challenges the constitutionality of a law requiring abortion providers to have a physician with local hospital admitting privileges on-site when abortions are performed.

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Senate Bill 642: https://bit.ly/1FmhYEY

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