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Oklahoma pro-life laws on hold pending court challenges

Oklahoma state Rep. Randy Grau Associated Press/Photo by Sue Ogrocki

Oklahoma pro-life laws on hold pending court challenges

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court blocked two pro-life laws Tuesday while lawsuits challenging their constitutionality make their way through lower courts.

Both laws took effect Nov. 1. One required adherence to Food and Drug Administration guidelines when administering the abortifacient RU-486. A district court in Oklahoma had recently decided to allow the law to take effect. The other law required that abortionists obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed suit in October against both laws. CRR’s president, Nancy Northrup, called Tuesday's decision a “crucial victory” for protecting constitutional rights and safe abortions.

But the court’s decision is out of step with the state’s voters, said Tony Lauinger, president of Oklahomans for Life. “We are disappointed in yet another example of arbitrariness by the Oklahoma Supreme Court,” he said. “The Supreme Court is the last bastion of pro-abortion liberalism in Oklahoma. And our state Supreme Court does not reflect the values of the people of Oklahoma.”

Though CRR attorney Autumn Katz argued the RU-486 regulations would push women into surgical abortions, the law’s sponsor, Rep. Randy Grau, said the law increases safety for women. “The intent of the law is to protect patients and ensure the safe practice of medicine, especially as it relates to the prescribing of RU-486,” he told WORLDin October. “The only way to do that is to follow the FDA protocol.”

CRR filed suit against the admitting privileges law on behalf of Larry Burns, an abortionist responsible for nearly half of the abortions in the state. Burns said he had unsuccessfully attempted to obtain admitting privileges at 16 hospitals.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who signed the legislation in May, maintained her support for the admitting privileges law after CRR filed suit. She said she was “proud to work with lawmakers in both parties to support legislation that protects the health and lives of both mothers and their unborn children.”

And Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt promised to continue defending the laws. “It’s disappointing these laws were blocked from taking effect, but it’s important to note the Oklahoma Supreme Court didn’t comment on the validity of the laws in referring these issues to the district court for further consideration,” Aaron Cooper, director of communications for the attorney general’s office, told me in an email. “The Oklahoma Legislature was well within its authority to enact these laws to protect the health and safety of Oklahoma women.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Courtney Crandell Courtney is a former WORLD correspondent.

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