Oklahoma anti-abortion bill: Good cause, but bad plan
Recent rulings by an Oklahoma County judge should buoy those who want to see fewer abortions in the state. On the other hand, a legislative effort with the same intent is misguided and sure to fail ultimately.
Last week, District Judge Natalie Mai rejected motions seeking temporary injunctions for two laws. One law allows only physicians to perform abortions in Oklahoma. The other requires that abortions be performed in person.
The Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City wants registered nurse practitioners to be able to perform medication-assisted abortions, which involve patients being given a series of two pills. It also wants doctors to be able to use telemedicine to see patients for medication abortions.
Attorney General Mike Hunter called the challenge “an extreme lawsuit” and said Mai’s decision adheres to the U.S. Supreme Court’s “repeated assertion that there is ‘no doubt’ that these types of laws are reasonable and constitutional …”
Last summer, another Oklahoma County district judge, Cindy Truong, upheld a 2015 law that bans dilation and evacuation abortions after 14 weeks. The law hasn’t taken effect due to court challenges, and those continue — the state Supreme Court in November issued an injunction that’s likely to remain in place until it hears an appeal filed by the Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic.
The law bans “dismemberment abortions” in the second trimester unless a “fetal demise” procedure is performed first. It also makes doctors subject to criminal charges.
But in that case, doctors could get into trouble for violating a proposed new law. A bill approved last week by the Oklahoma House would punish doctors for following existing law — it would suspend their medical licenses for performing abortions.
In its story about the bill’s passage, The Associated Press noted research showing that 12 states enacted abortion bans in 2019, but none sought to suspend medical licenses for performing abortions. That may be because such an effort would be appealed immediately and, in the end, would certainly get overturned, with taxpayers footing the bill.
Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, the bill's author, has said taxpayers wouldn’t be impacted by a potential legal challenge because the attorney general’s office would defend the law and the AG’s salary is the same regardless. During lengthy debate on the House floor, he told members the goal is to eliminate abortion in Oklahoma.
“This is our time to make history,” said Olsen, a minister. “We can do something today that we’ll be able to tell our grandchildren that we did something to stop this horrific slaughter.”
His colleagues in the Republican-dominated chamber agreed, voting 71-21 for passage. But while the goal here may be laudable, the approach is flawed. Thus Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has made no secret of his pro-life position, would do well to reject this bill if it reaches his desk.