An Oklahoma judge temporarily blocked the implementation of two new anti-abortion laws that go into effect next month, including one that is similar to a Texas abortion ban in that it effectively prohibits the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.
District Judge Cindy Truong said she would allow three other anti-abortion laws to go into effect on Nov. 1, which one abortion rights advocate called “catastrophic” to women’s access to abortion services in the state. These three would impose new restrictions on medication-assisted abortions and require all abortionists to be board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology.
“The OB-GYN requirement will immediately disqualify more than half of the doctors in the state who perform abortions,” “Rabia Muqaddam, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, which challenged the five new Oklahoma laws, agreed. “Every day that law is in effect, we’re talking about potentially catastrophic consequences.”
The medication-induced abortion restrictions include provisions that were previously overturned by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. These include an admitting privileges requirement that has been overturned by the United States Supreme Court and an ultrasound requirement that is more stringent than an ultrasound law that has already been overturned by the state Supreme Court.
Abortion clinics in Oklahoma are already being overrun by patients from Texas, where the United States Supreme Court allowed a law to go into effect on Sept. 1 that made abortions illegal once medical professionals detect cardiac activity, which is usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.
In August, approximately 11 women from Texas received abortion services at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City. That number increased to 110 last month, said Rebecca Tong, co-executive director of Trust Women. Abortion clinics in Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, and New Mexico have seen similar increases.
State Sen. Julie Daniels, a Republican from Bartlesville who sponsored four of the five anti-abortion bills challenged in Oklahoma, said the laws are intended to make abortions safer, though she admitted her ultimate goal is to save fetuses’ lives.
“My goal has always been to save the unborn child’s life and return these decisions to the states where they belong,” Daniels said.
Women are increasingly seeking abortions outside of their home states as Republican legislatures and governors pass ever-stricter abortion laws, particularly in the South. According to a 2019 analysis of state and federal data, at least 276,000 women terminated their pregnancies outside of their home states between 2012 and 2017.
Over the last year, the trend appears to have accelerated. Abortion clinics in neighboring states began receiving more calls from Texas after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott banned abortions for nearly a month in March 2020 under a COVID-19 executive order.
Dr. Alan Braid, owner of Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic, believes the judge’s decision on Monday will reverberate throughout the South.
“Oklahoma clinics were already inundated with patients from both Texas and Oklahoma, and if these laws take effect, many Oklahoma abortion providers won’t be able to provide care,” Braid said in a statement. “Where will all these patients go? Politicians are trying to trap them, and they are succeeding. But we will not stop fighting these restrictions.”
Braid, from San Antonio, became the first doctor to be sued under the new Texas law after admitting to performing an abortion in violation of the statute.
Muqaddam stated that the center intends to appeal the judge’s ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court once she and attorneys for the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office reach an agreement on a formal order for the judge to sign.
Neither the office of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt nor the state attorney general’s office, which defended the new laws, responded immediately to messages seeking comment on the ruling.