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Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down state's abortion law

By Allen Cone
Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down state's abortion law
Pro-choice demonstrators assemble in front of the Supreme Court just before the court struck down a Texas regulation law on abortion clinics on June 27. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- The Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously struck down a bill passed by the state legislature restricting abortion, ruling Tuesday the measure is unconstitutional.

Senate Bill 642 was passed in 2015 but did not go into effect pending a court decision. It encompassed four abortion-related topics: parental consent for minors, tissue preservation, inspection of clinics and legal liability of abortion providers.

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"We find that each of the four sections of SB 642, lack a common purpose and are not germane, relative and cognate," Justice Joseph Watt wrote for the nine-member court. "Although each section relates in some way to abortion, the broad sweep of each section does not cure the single subject defects in this bill. Although defendants urge that SB 642 does not constitute logrolling, we find the provisions are so unrelated that those voting on this bill were faced with a constitutionally prohibited all-or-nothing choice to ensure the passage of favorable legislation."

The nine-member court ruled the legislation placed "undue burdens on access to abortion under the guise of protecting the health of women.

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The law would have penalized violators, including a felony for someone helping obtain an abortion without parental consent. And it would have required providers to preserve fetal tissue when an abortion was performed on someone under 14 years old.

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The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law. The center sued on behalf of Dr. Larry Burns of Norman, Okla., who performs nearly half of Oklahoma's abortions.

"Today's decision is a critical victory for Oklahoma women and their doctors, who will no longer face the threat of criminal prosecution simply for providing safe and legal healthcare to their patients," Nancy Northup, president and chief executive officer of the center, said in a press release.

"This law was nothing but a cynical attack on women's health and rights by unjustly targeting their trusted healthcare providers."

The center has challenged Oklahoma abortion laws eight times, she said, and has a 100 percent success race.

Senate Bill 642, authored by Sen. Greg Treat and Rep. Randy Grau, passed 40-5 in the Senate and 70-5 in the House. Gov. Mary Fallin signed it into law on June 4, 2015.

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On June 27 of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas abortion law that caused clinics all over that state to shut down.

At the time, Treat said thought the nation's high court interpreted the law through a "lens of political ideology."

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