In a powerful 5-3 ruling, the Oklahoma Supreme Court granted a temporary injunction, blocking three anti-abortion laws from implementation. The ruling, handed down late Monday, came just days before the laws were to go into effect.
“We are incredibly grateful for the Court’s ruling,” said Heather Palacios, Vice President of Community Relations & Strategic Partnerships for Planned Parenthood of Eastern Oklahoma. “This is a win for Oklahoma and the entire region.”
The three laws blocked by the state’s High Court would have severely reduced access to abortions in the state. The first would require doctors who perform abortions to be board certified OBGYNs. This, according to Public Radio Tulsa, would have forced “half the abortion providers in the state to stop offering abortions.”
The second and third laws struck down would have placed extreme restrictions on access to medications meant to induce abortion. These laws would have also implemented an ultrasound requirement prior to abortion.
News of the ruling comes just weeks after a lower state court struck down two other laws as unconstitutional, including one that would have penalized doctors for performing an abortion at any stage of the pregnancy.
State Supreme Court ruling leaves women’s health providers feeling ‘encouraged’
While the ruling came as a surprise to many, Palacios noted it demonstrated thoughtfulness on the part of the justices. Laws like these are quickly blocked in more progressive states, but the politics of Oklahoma causes often make it difficult to combat efforts that undermine reproductive rights.
Similar laws have caused headlines, like in the state of Texas, where the US Supreme Court has refused to intervene. Abortions in that state are now all but illegal, causing many women to seek abortion services here in Oklahoma. One clinic in Oklahoma City reported phone lines being busy for eight straight hours after Texas’s laws went in effect.
Palacios acknowledged this influx as well, citing the need for individuals to now drive hours just to receive safe reproductive healthcare.
She encourages Oklahomans to see what is happening in Texas and work to hold legislators here accountable. Even though the majority of Oklahomans support abortion in the state being “legal in all or most cases”, an overwhelming majority of Republicans voted for the bills deemed unconstitutional over the Spring.
“We need to ensure the people we vote into office stand up for the right to reproductive healthcare,” Palacios said. “We have to vote accordingly and we have to keep them accountable.”
In addition to voting, Palacios said Oklahomans can help protect reproductive healthcare by simply offering support. She mentions how often individuals seeking an abortion must walk through a crowd of protestors simply to get to their appointment. It is in these moments she urges Tulsans to find ways to choose compassion.
But at a time when reproductive freedoms are under attack, Palacios and her colleagues are breathing a sigh of relief.
“We know we already have to gear up for the next legislative session,” she said. “but right now, we’re encouraged.”