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Oklahoma's near-total abortion ban to face challenge at state's highest court

Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

Oklahoma’s abortion ban similarly violates its constitution by giving the state “the right to redirect the force of your life against your will,” she said. “When you have an unwanted pregnancy, it affects your life permanently.”

In the draft of the US Supreme Court opinion leaked to Politico May 2, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that Roe was “egregiously wrong from the start” and it was time to “heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” The opinion had the support of five of the nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. A final ruling is expected by early July.

The citizen-enforcement mechanism in the Oklahoma law was copied from Texas’ Heartbeat Act, which bans abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, usually around six weeks.

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed Texas’ law to remain in effect even though some justices expressed concern that state officials were purposefully evading judicial scrutiny by outsourcing enforcement of state laws to civilians, who don’t need any connection to sue.

Oklahoma legislators passed a six-weeks ban that mirrored the Texas law before pushing further to pass the near-total abortion ban. Center for Reproductive Rights lawyers are challenging both bans at the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Susan Brazelton, a director of the Roe Fund, which raises money to help women pay for abortions and travel expenses, said she’s particularly concerned about the statutory language that potentially exposes everyone who provides any assistance to a person seeking an abortion to lawsuits. Abortion funds, other non-profits and some corporations that have opted to cover procedural and travel costs aren’t sure where the lines are drawn.

 

“They’ve never clarified” the definitions, said Brazelton, who also coordinates patient safety escorts at the Tulsa Women’s Clinic. “So we’re all scrambling, trying to figure out. … I guess me opening a door into the clinic and directing a car into a driveway is aiding and abetting?”

Oklahoma’s abortion providers also asked the state’s high court to prevent court clerks from accepting lawsuits filed under the new abortion ban. A group of Texas clinics temporarily won that same protection from a federal judge, only to lose it when an appeals court ruled US judges can’t tell state-court clerks what to do in state-law challenges.

“We have to use every legal lever we have, including state constitutions,” Muqaddam said. “We won’t be successful everywhere. We will have such large abortion deserts in the US that women will have to travel many hundreds of miles to access care,” crossing multiple state lines to reach open clinics.

The solution is for Congress to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which will enshrine abortion rights in federal law, Muqaddam said. So far, that measure has passed the Democrat-controlled House but has failed to pass in the evenly split Senate.

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