OKLAHOMA CITY -- An Oklahoma judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked a new law that would allow doctors who perform medication abortions to face felony charges for not informing women about the possibility of reversing the process.
Oklahoma County District Judge Don Andrews issued a temporary injunction that prevents the law from taking effect Nov. 1. The injunction will remain in place while the case is fully litigated before the judge.
The measure approved by the Republican-led Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt would require medical providers to tell women who are taking medication to end their pregnancies that the process can be reversed after they take the first of two pills. The law would also require signage to that effect be posted inside clinics where medication abortions are performed.
"The judge didn't rule on the merits of the case and only decided to retain the status quo moving forward, pending more evidence," Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a statement after the judge's ruling. "The state remains committed to defending this law that requires doctors to inform women they can opt to reverse the process of a medical abortion."
Eileen Citron, an attorney representing Tulsa Women's Reproductive Clinic, argued that the claim that a medication abortion can be safely reversed after a woman takes the first pill, called mifepristone, is not supported by reliable scientific evidence. She said doctors would be in the unenviable position of either providing false and misleading information to their patients or facing felony charges.
"That's untenable," she told the judge. "This law represents the Legislature telling doctors how to do their job."
Attorneys for the state argued that there are literally hundreds of cases in which mothers kept their children alive despite taking the first pill and note that the bill only requires doctors to inform women that it may be possible to reverse the effects after that pill is taken.
"It hurts women in Oklahoma not having this disclosure," Oklahoma Assistant Solicitor General Bryan Cleveland told the judge.
A federal judge in North Dakota blocked a similar law last month. Other states with similar laws are Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, South Dakota, Nebraska and Utah.
In Oklahoma, several abortion laws approved by the state's conservative Legislature have been struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in recent years, including a restriction on medication abortions , an admitting privileges requirement and an omnibus measure that contained multiple abortion restrictions.
Earlier this week, the same Tulsa abortion clinic asked the state Supreme Court to review a judge's decision to uphold a ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure.
"There is a national, ongoing strategy to block women from accessing reproductive health care and from exercising their rights to have an abortion and to decide when and whether to become pregnant," Gail Deady, a staff attorney with the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which is assisting the plaintiffs, said after Wednesday's hearing. "And this law is part of that national strategy of passing restriction after restriction to block women's access to reproductive health care."