The Oklahoma Supreme Court has temporarily blocked two laws designed to restrict access to abortion. The first would require abortion clinics to have a doctor on staff with admission privileges at a local hospital, while the second would ban medication abortions after 49 days of pregnancy and required physicians to comply with an outdated protocol for using abortion-inducing drugs.
The Center for Reproductive Rights sued over the admitting privileges law on behalf of Dr. Larry Burns, one of just three abortion providers left in the state. The CRR says Burns has been unable to get admitting privileges at any hospital because he provides abortion care; he's applied at all 16 within 30 miles of his office, they say, "with many hospitals even refusing to process his application. " It's a textbook example of a TRAP law (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers), designed solely to make it impossible for those doctors to operate. According to the Guttmacher Institute, those and other anti-abortion laws are working especially well in Oklahoma: 96 percent of counties in the state have no abortion clinics. Over half of Oklahoma women live in those counties.
The other law effectively banning medication abortions was House Bill 2684, passed this summer, which required abortion drugs to be administered in accordance with Food and Drug Administration protocols, even though those protocols are no longer used in 96 percent of medication abortions. A very similar law was already overturned in 2011 by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, who declared it unconstitutional. Nonetheless, state representative Randy Grau, pictured above, brought the bill anyway because hey, it's an election year.
Both laws will now return to district court to be litigated anew, ping-ponging forever until, in all likelihood, making their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. That's important, though, because it'll may force the Supreme Court to re-consider Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the law that essentially said abortion restrictions were A-OK as long as they didn't impose an "undue burden" on people seeking an abortion. But laws like Oklahoma's might go too far even for SCOTUS: the Supreme Court blocked a similar set of laws in Texas earlier this month. And if the Supreme Court uses Oklahoma to strikes down these TRAP laws more thoroughly, anti-abortion activists have lost one of their favorite backdoor strategies. And so, just like a rainstorm makes a beautiful rainbow, a particularly shitty set of laws could ultimately lead to better reproductive healthcare access for everyone.
Image via AP