Oklahoma Near Total Ban on Abortion Upheld

Mar 22, 2023

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the state’s near total ban on abortion and said there is only a “limited right to terminate a pregnancy ” in order to save the life of the mother. 

Governor Kevin Stitt signed a law last May that made Oklahoma the first state in the nation to effectively protect unborn children by prohibiting abortions from fertilization and allowing private citizens to sue those who help women terminate their pregnancies. The law, which passed the House 73-16 and the Senate 35-10, took effect immediately and bans all abortions except when necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency; or if the pregnancy is the result of rape, sexual assault, or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.  

Yesterday, Oklahoma’s High Court ruled in Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, et. al v. John O’Connor, in his official capacity as Oklahoma Attorney General, et al, that the limited right to abortion is restricted to what is determined necessary by a physician to pose a risk to the life of the mother. In addition, the Court stated that any restrictions on such a right must survive strict scrutiny under the Oklahoma Constitution. The Justices declined to answer the question whether the state constitution protects the right to an elective abortion.

The Court upheld one of the statutes, 21 O.S. 2021, §861, because it does not restrict a right to terminate a pregnancy based on the life of the mother. It said the other statute, 21 O.S. 2022, §1-731.4, was unconstitutionally void and unenforceable because it did not pass strict scrutiny. 

The Court wrote, “We hold that the Oklahoma Constitution creates an inherent right of a pregnant woman to terminate a pregnancy when necessary to preserve her life. We would define this inherent right to mean: a woman has an inherent right to choose to terminate her pregnancy if at any point in the pregnancy, the woman's physician has determined to a reasonable degree of medical certainty or probability that the continuation of the pregnancy will endanger the woman's life due to the pregnancy itself or due to a medical condition that the woman is either currently suffering from or likely to suffer from during the pregnancy. Absolute certainty is not required, however, mere possibility or speculation is insufficient” (emphasis added). 

Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief at the Oklahoma Supreme Court emphasizing the racist and eugenic history of the abortion movement and the fact that abortion is largely a minority epidemic. Liberty Counsel represents the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) and the Frederick Douglass Foundation in defense of the state’s pro-life law that restricts abortion. NHCLC is the largest Hispanic church association in America with more than 42,000 churches. 

This broad group of African Americans and Hispanics represent tens of millions of constituents. These minority communities have been the direct target of abortion, and even today the vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics are located in black and Hispanic neighborhoods. 

Liberty Counsel also filed an amicus brief on behalf of the NHCLC and the Frederick Douglass Foundation at the U.S. Supreme Court in the Dobbs abortion case. In overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court cited this brief acknowledging that abortion has disproportionally impacted the black community. 

Liberty Counsel’s Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “We commend Oklahoma for being proactive in defending the lives of precious unborn children. In light of the historic win overturning the Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey abortion decisions last year at the U. S. Supreme Court, we must now protect life in all states against ongoing court activity from abortion providers. We must make the womb a safe place once again.”           

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