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The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down two pro-life laws in a 6-3 decision on Wednesday.
Oklahoma’s highest court ruled that Senate Bill 1503 and House Bill 4327 are unconstitutional under the Oklahoma Constitution. Both laws were passed by the Oklahoma legislature in 2022 and included a requirement that a medical emergency be present before a doctor can perform an abortion.
“We read this section of law to require a woman to be in actual and present danger in order for her to obtain a medically necessary abortion,” the majority opinion reads.
“We know of no other law that requires one to wait until there is an actual medical emergency in order to receive treatment when the harmful condition is known or probable to occur in the future,” the opinion added.
The decision came down two months after the court ruled that a woman has “an inherent right to terminate a pregnancy when necessary to save her life.” The Associated Press reports that under this interpretation, an abortion can be performed if a doctor determines that continuing the pregnancy would endanger her life due to a pre-existing condition or if one is likely to arise in the future.
Wednesday’s ruling applies the March precedent by striking down the “medical emergency” requirement, holding that this requirement “endanger[s] the life of the pregnant woman and does not serve a compelling state interest.”
Five of the justices were appointed by a Republican governor, and four were appointed by a Democratic governor. In a 2020 study on the partisanship of state supreme courts, Ballotpedia characterized the Oklahoma Supreme Court as in “Republican control.”
The struck-down laws also utilize a civil lawsuit system — where private citizens can sue an individual who performs or helps another person access an abortion — to enforce the restrictions rather than criminal prosecutions.
Governor Kevin Stitt (R-OK) criticized the decision in a press release, “I again wholeheartedly disagree with the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s use of activism to create a right to an abortion in Oklahoma.”
Governor Stitt also echoed Oklahoma Vice-Chief Justice Dustin Rowe’s dissent, arguing that “[t]he issues presented in this matter are political questions, which are better resolved by the people via our democratic process.”
Despite the court’s decision, abortion remains illegal in the state under a 1910 statute that went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in its landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision.