An Oklahoma County court dealt a blow to abortion rights on Friday, becoming the first in the country to uphold a state ban on a common procedure to terminate pregnancy in the second trimester.
The Oklahoma law, passed in 2015, bans abortion by the dilation and evacuation, or D&E, method. This surgical procedure accounts for around 95% of the 11% of abortions that occur after the first trimester of pregnancy nationwide, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Such a ban disproportionately affects women facing maternal health complications. It forces doctors to choose between using a less safe method of abortion or not providing abortions for women after their first trimester, said Autumn Katz, a staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights and an attorney on this case.
Laws like Oklahoma’s are part of a nationwide push to challenge abortion at the state level. This conservative effort has been met by equally determined progressive lawyers and activists, who aren’t backing down without a fight
“Oklahoma’s law is part of this orchestrated national strategy that we’ve seen where states are passing hundreds of restrictions on abortion ... [including] these kinds of D&E bans and many other restrictions on abortion that are completely politically motivated and designed to push abortion out of reach for women,” Katz told HuffPost.
She said that low-income people, those living in rural areas, and those who face barriers to accessing reproductive health care in general are most impacted by these restrictions. Oklahoma has only four health centers that offer abortions, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Similar cases have been heard against bans on the D&E abortion method in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky and Texas, but all of those courts blocked the measures from taking effect, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“We certainly will keep fighting not only in Oklahoma but in every state to ensure that women continue to have access to abortions whenever they need it,” Katz said. That includes filing an appeal in the Oklahoma case, she noted.
Then-Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed the Oklahoma law in April 2015. Attorneys representing Tulsa Women’s Clinic, which went by another name at the time, sued to block the ban in October of the same year, and a judge issued a temporary injunction preventing it from taking effect while the case proceeded.
On Friday, Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong ruled from the bench in support of the law.
“Restricting access to a safe and effective abortion procedure does nothing to protect the health and safety of people in our state,” Tamya Cox-Touré, the regional director of public policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, said in a statement to HuffPost. “This law goes against medical evidence and sound practice, and it clearly violates a patient’s constitutional right to safe, legal abortion and the right to make decisions about their own body without government interference.”
“We’ll continue fighting this at the next level and we’ll take it all the way up to the Oklahoma Supreme Court,” Katz said.