Okla. Judge Throws Out Bill Placing Restrictions on Abortions

An abortion law in Oklahoma signed by Gov. Mary Fallin last year has been ruled as unconstitutional by a district court judge because it violates a woman's privacy.

House Bill 1970, which placed restrictions on a drug used by women to induce abortions, was found by Judge Donald L. Worthington to be "an unconstitutional law in violation of the fundamental rights of women to privacy and bodily integrity." Worthington, an active retired district judge from Payne and Logan counties who was assigned to hear the case, gave his decision on May 11.

Arguing that the restrictions on the abortion-inducing drug served no other purpose but to make it harder for pregnant women to receive this option, Worthington deducted that the law was "so completely at odds with the standard that governs the practice of medicine that it can serve no purpose other than to prevent women from obtaining abortions and to punish and discriminate against those women who do."

The due-process clause of the U.S. Constitution protects the option to terminate pregnancy as a fundamental right, according to the judge.

His decision, however, has been sharply opposed by Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, and Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, who wrote the measure. Grau and Treat said Worthington's decision is entirely off the mark, the Tulsa World reported.

"There are a lot of problems with the judge's ruling," Grau explained, adding that the purpose of the bill was to strengthen patient protection and safety rather than place limitations on women's choices.

"The district judge in this case took the unprecedented step of finding that the Oklahoma Constitution contains a right to an abortion. The district court's decision is wrong, it is not supported by any decision from the state Supreme Court or any other Oklahoma court, and will be appealed," said Diane Clay, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

The governor's office also opposed the judge's decision and explained its reasoning behind backing the law.

"House Bill 1970 seeks to protect women by requiring that abortion providers dispense abortion-inducing drugs only in ways tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration," explained Gov. Fallin's spokesman Alex Weintz. "The governor is disappointed with the court's ruling and supports the decision of the attorney general to appeal."

Supporters of the judge's decision, however, remain convinced that the law was only in place because of pro-life views.

"This decision adds to a growing list of state and federal courts that have reaffirmed in no uncertain terms that reproductive rights are fundamental constitutional rights that must be afforded the strongest possible legal protection," said Nancy Northup, CEO and president of Center for Reproductive Rights, which us representing the plaintiffs. "It sends a strong message to anti-choice legislators in Oklahoma and beyond that their disingenuous tactics for restricting access to abortion and their hostility toward women's fundamental rights will not stand."

"The court has made it clear this law was never about protecting women. It was about banning safe and effective methods of terminating a pregnancy and making it impossible for women to exercise the full range of their constitutionally protected rights," she added.

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