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Oklahoma Supreme Court blocks 3 anti-abortion laws from taking effect

Oklahoma Supreme Court blocks 3 anti-abortion laws from taking effect
Thousands participating in the annual Women's March hold signs showing support for abortion and reproductive rights outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C., on October 2. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has temporarily blocked three abortion-restricting laws from being enacted next month. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 26 (UPI) -- The Oklahoma Supreme Court has temporarily blocked three anti-abortion laws that would have placed wide-ranging restrictions on the medical procedure from being enacted.

The court voted 5-4 to block the laws, which were to go into effect on Monday, as they are litigated.

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Abortion providers and advocates have warned the laws would devastate abortion access in Oklahoma as one would bar all medical professionals aside from board-certified obstetricians and gynecologists from performing abortions, which would have halved the number of providers in the state.

The other two laws would impose restrictions such as an ultrasound requirement on patients and the need for them to make two healthcare appointments separated by at least 72 hours before the procedure could be performed.

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"The Oklahoma Supreme Court recognized that these laws would cause irreparable harm to Oklahomans," Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. "All of these laws have the same goal: to make it harder to get an abortion in Oklahoma. We will continue to fight in court to ensure these laws are struck down for good."

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The temporary injunction comes in a lawsuit filed against the state in early September by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and other abortion rights groups and providers.

The ruling was made three weeks after a lower court blocked two other anti-abortions laws but allowed the three halted Monday to go forward.

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Republican-led states have this year introduced 561 abortion restrictions, including 165 abortion bans in 47 states with more than 80 having been enacted, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

In Texas, the nation's most restrictive abortion ban went into effect Sept. 1, prohibiting the medical procedure after fetal cardiac activity is detected, which occurs usually around the sixth week of a pregnancy and before many people know they are pregnant. The law is being challenged by the Justice Department as unconstitutional.

The Guttmacher Institute said the state's restriction has increased the distance a person in Texas has to drive to reach an abortion provider from 17 miles to 247 miles.

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Abortion provider Trust Women Oklahoma City has said in court documents that it has experienced "a dramatic increase" in the number of patients from Texas since Sept. 1.

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"[T]he clinic's call volume has more than doubled from approximately 15 patient appointment calls per day to 30 to 40," it said. "About two-thirds of our patient appointment calls now come from Texas patients seeking abortions that are unavailable throughout their home state."

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