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December 5, 2012

Okla. court says abortion laws are unconstitutional

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma laws requiring women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound image placed in front of them while they hear a description of the fetus and that ban off-label use of certain abortion-inducing drugs are unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The state’s highest court determined that lower court judges were right to halt the laws. In separate decisions, the Oklahoma Supreme Court said the laws, which received wide bipartisan support in the Legislature, violated a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court case.

The Oklahoma court said it has a duty to “follow the mandate of the United State Supreme Court on matters of federal constitutional law.”

The Legislature passed the ultrasound law in 2010. Oklahoma is one of several states that have passed laws requiring doctors to both perform an ultrasound and provide a verbal description of the fetus before an abortion. The other law was approved in 2011.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights challenged both laws, and Oklahoma County judges had halted their enforcement while the court cases made their way through the judicial system.

Nancy Northup, the center’s president and CEO, said Oklahoma has been a testing ground for a national network of organizations she said are hostile to women, doctors and the rights of both.

“But despite their best efforts to chip away at women’s fundamental rights, the courts have consistently rejected these extreme assaults on reproductive freedom,” Northrup said in a statement.

State Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whose office appealed lower-court decisions that invalidated the laws, said he is considering appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We disagree with the court’s decision, particularly with the fact that the question on whether Oklahoma’s Constitution provides a right to an abortion was left unanswered,” Pruitt said in a statement.

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