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Okla. Supreme Court temporarily blocks abortion restrictions

Dr. Larry Burns, who challenged the Oklahoma requirement that doctors performing abortions must have hospital admitting privileges, said he had been rejected by 16.

By Frances Burns
Anti-abortion protesters march past the Supreme Court as they take part in March for Life on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. UPI File/Kevin Dietsch
Anti-abortion protesters march past the Supreme Court as they take part in March for Life on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. UPI File/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

OKLAHOMA CITY, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Oklahoma cannot enforce two new restrictions on abortion until courts have ruled on their constitutionality, the state Supreme Court said Tuesday.

The ruling means the state cannot require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The court also barred Oklahoma from enforcing a requirement that abortion-inducing drugs can only be administered according to Food and Drug Administration protocols.

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The justices said they were making no decision on the merits of Oklahoma's new abortion law.

Dr. Larry Burns of Norman, who performs about half the abortions done in Oklahoma, sued to overturn the admitting privileges requirement. Burns, who said he could be forced to stop performing abortions, said he has sought privileges at 16 hospitals without success.

The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice joined with a Tulsa abortion clinic to challenge the limits on the use of drugs.

Abortion opponents say both requirements, which have been adopted by many states in the recent wave of new restrictions, are aimed at protecting the health of women. Critics say that early abortions are extremely safe and forcing doctors to get admitting privileges, which many hospitals are reluctant to give those who perform abortions, is unnecessary. They argue that doctors have found that since drugs like RU-486 were approved, they can be effectively and safely administered in smaller doses than the original protocols.

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The restrictions took effect Nov. 11.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, welcomed the ruling.

"We are relieved the court has stepped in to protect women's access to safe, legal abortion in Oklahoma," she said.

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