Oklahoma's state Supreme Court has ruled the state's two most recent civil "bounty" law abortion bans unconstitutional, but has left in place a law from 1910 that makes providing for a "miscarriage" a state felony.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down two state laws that ban most abortions because they require a “medical emergency” before a doctor could terminate a pregnancy to save a mother’s life.
In a 6-3 decision, the court said the laws violate the Oklahoma Constitution based on its ruling in March that the constitution provides an inherent right for a woman to terminate a pregnancy to save her own life and does not require the danger to be imminent.
The court has now struck down three strict abortion laws that went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed itself on abortion rights, striking down Roe v. Wade, from 1973, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, from 1992. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization gave states the authority to make abortion laws, and Oklahoma approved some of the strictest in the nation.
The statute left standing after Wednesday was the law approved in 1910, which states: “Every person who administers to any woman, or who prescribes for any woman, or advises or procures any woman to take any medicine, drug or substance, or uses or employs any instrument, or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless the same is necessary to preserve her life, shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary for not less than two (2) years nor more than five (5) years.”
Both of the laws struck down Wednesday were passed by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2022 and signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt. Stemming from Senate Bill 1603 and House Bill 4327, both laws used civil lawsuits, rather than criminal prosecution, for enforcement. The laws were modeled after ones first approved in Texas, empowering residents to file lawsuits against anyone who might have helped a woman obtain an abortion.
The challenge to the laws was filed by Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, the Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic and other abortion rights groups. The suit named individual county court clerks who would be responsible for filing civil lawsuits to enforce the abortion laws.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court said Wednesday that the House bill used language on medical emergencies identical to that in the law struck down in March, while the Senate bill "provides even more extreme language" than that in the bill that was the subject of the March ruling.
The office of Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said Wednesday, "“Despite the court’s decisions today on SB 1503 and HB 4327, Oklahoma’s 1910 law prohibiting abortion remains in place. Except for certain circumstances outlined in that statute, abortion is still unlawful in the State of Oklahoma.”
So nothing's really changed in the Sooner State. Providing abortion as medical care in Oklahoma still gets you prison time unless you can prove the woman's life was at stake. Reproductive justice still doesn't exist, and thousands of women will still have to go to free states like Colorado or Illinois to get care.
White it's good to stop this civil bounty nonsense on wombs, note the law says miscarriage, not abortion, so potentially failing to carry a pregnancy to term could be investigated as a criminal felony.
This will continue to be the battle of a generation, again.