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Oklahoma Court Narrows State's Strict Abortion Ban

The Oklahoma Legislature's near-absolute ban on abortion suffered a setback at the state's Supreme Court, which ruled that the state constitution protects a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy when necessary to save her life. But the ruling fell far short of what was sought by the abortion providers and reproductive rights groups that filed the lawsuit, the Oklahoman reports. Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, called the 5-4 ruling a first, small step on "a long journey to restore real, meaningful rights of Oklahomans over their own bodies."

The majority struck down one new law criminalizing abortions but left another in place and took no position on whether the state constitution provides a right to elective abortions. On the narrow question of abortions meant to save a mother's life, the court relied for its finding on the constitutional provision that states: “All persons have the inherent right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry.” That section, the court said, “stands as the basis for protecting a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy in order to save her life.” The court struck down a law that prevented an abortion to save a woman's life unless she was in a "medical emergency." The court stated, "We read this section of law to require a woman to be in actual and present danger in order for her to obtain a medically necessary abortion. We know of no other law that requires one to wait until there is an actual medical emergency in order to receive treatment when the harmful condition is known or probable to occur in the future." Chief Justice M. John Kane IV wrote a dissenting opinion saying the majority of justices had engaged in “legal contortions to protect pregnant women who are in medical peril by fashioning Oklahoma Constitution precepts of abortion law that simply do not exist. All four justices dissenting were appointed by Republicans. Three, including Kane, were appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, who vowed to appoint only anti-abortion justices to the court.


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