- Associated Press - Thursday, February 11, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - An Oklahoma law requiring abortion providers to have a physician with local hospital admitting privileges present when abortions are performed is constitutional, a judge ruled Thursday.

The law does not single out abortion providers or their patients, and the state “has a legitimate, constitutionally recognized interest in protecting women’s health” Oklahoma County District Judge Don Andrews said, adding that women who have an abortion need “prompt and efficient health care, when necessary.”

He rejected arguments by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the legal challenge, that the statute was an unconstitutional special law designed to shut down abortion clinics.

The Center for Reproductive Rights will appeal the decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, its president and CEO, Nancy Northrup, said in a statement after the ruling.

“Politicians across the country have made it their mission to cut off women’s access to essential reproductive health care under the guise of protecting their health,” Northrup said, adding that shutting down abortion providers are a direct threat to women’s health.

Andrews ruled that a temporary injunction approved by the Oklahoma Supreme Court when it blocked the law from going into effect in November 2014 will remain in effect.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whose office defended the law, said that the admitting privilege mandate is similar to those for the state’s outpatient surgical centers and birthing centers.

“Oklahoma lawmakers passed this bill to protect the health and safety of Oklahoma women requiring quick and efficient emergency care,” Pruitt said in a statement. “We are pleased that the court agreed with us that this bill is constitutional.”

The law was overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in May 2014.

The abortion rights group filed the lawsuit in October 2014 on behalf of Dr. Larry Burns of Norman, who performs nearly half of Oklahoma’s abortions. The group has said Burns would likely have to close his practice if the law went into effect. The other clinic in the state that does abortions is Reproductive Services of Tulsa, the group said.

Burns has said he’s applied for admitting privileges at hospitals in the Oklahoma City area but had yet to get approval from any of the facilities. Two turned him down because he could not commit to admitting at least six patients a year, according to the organization.

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

Andrews also rejected the abortion rights group’s claim that the law contains multiple subjects in spite of the state constitution’s requirement that legislation be confined to a single subject.

“Each and every section of the bill relates specifically to the regulation of abortion providers and the procedures that must be utilized by these providers at their facilities,” Andrews ruled.


Senate Bill 1848: https://bit.ly/1fLRQk9

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