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The next move

Both sides in the abortion debate consider their options after recent rulings by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Jerry Bohnen February 6th, 2013

Commemorate, observe or celebrate the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme court decision, Roe v. Wade: It’s what millions of Americans have done over the past several weeks.

Rep. Randy Grau

To some, it’s a sad day. For others, it’s a celebration of a woman’s reproductive rights. Regardless, some state legislators are counting on another try at placing restrictions on the law in Oklahoma after suffering a legal defeat by the state Supreme Court.

Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, is one of those lawmakers.

“Unfortunately, the court did not provide much explanation about why it ruled the way it did,” he said.

He was a co-author of a 2011 antiabortion measure, House Bill 1970, that put restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs such as RU-486. Signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin, the state’s high court subsequently ruled it unconstitutional in December.

Among the groups that successfully challenged HB 1970 was the Center for Reproductive Rights.

“We believe that the Oklahoma Supreme Court was right to uphold the decisions by the lower courts and once again affirm that women’s reproductive rights are fully protected constitutional rights,” said Stephanie Toti, senior staff attorney at the New York-based organization. “As a result, we are confident that any attempt to appeal the matter to the nation’s highest court would be rejected.”

It remains unknown whether state Attorney General Scott Pruitt will appeal the decision. He isn’t talking beyond his initial statement issued after the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“We disagree with the court’s decision,” he had said in a written statement, “particularly the fact that the question on whether Oklahoma’s Constitution provides a right to an abortion was left unanswered.”

The Supreme Court decision came after Pruitt had appealed an Oklahoma County district judge’s ruling that HB 1970 was unconstitutional.

It could be back to the state Legislature this year to draw up another effort to restrict abortion.

“The [Supreme] Court did not articulate any constitutional weaknesses or provide any guidance with relation to its objections; instead, the court  simply set forth some broad, sweeping generalizations and jumped directly to its conclusions,” Grau said.

Scott Pruitt

Toti said such legislative efforts would be a waste of time and resources.

“After three resounding defeats in the Oklahoma Supreme Court last year,” she said, “we hope that the Oklahoma Legislature will finally accept that women are equal citizens who are entitled to the full spectrum of reproductive rights, including access to contraception, abortion, fertility treatments and prenatal care.”

The court rejected another antiabortion law, HB 2780, as unconstitutional. That measure required any woman wanting an abortion to undergo an ultrasound within an hour of the procedure. Medical officials also would have had to verbally describe the ultrasound to the patient before proceeding with an abortion.

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