Oklahoma abortion provider sues over new law

AP News
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Posted: Oct 02, 2014 5:34 PM

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma doctor who performs nearly half the state's abortions filed a lawsuit Thursday to block a law that would require clinics to have a physician with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital present when an abortion is performed.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Larry Burns, who the abortion rights group says has applied for admitting privileges at 16 nearby hospitals but has yet to get approval from any facility.

The lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court does not name the hospitals or give a reason why Burns has not been approved.

The New York-based center says the Norman doctor is one of just three abortion providers in Oklahoma, performs nearly half the state's abortions and has more than 40 years of experience in performing the procedure. The group says Burns would be forced to close his practice when the admitting privileges requirement goes into effect Nov. 1.

An assistant who answered the phone at Burns' practice said the abortion rights group is handling comments on the lawsuit.

The group says Oklahoma and other states in the region are using admitting privileges requirements as "an underhanded way" to close clinics and limit women's access to abortion services.

"This latest restriction on abortion, like all the others that have been passed by this Legislature ... reflects nothing more than a single-minded obsession with shutting down the clinics that offer safe, legal care to women who have made the decision to end a pregnancy," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

A similar law in Texas has already been upheld by a federal appeals court, but in August, a lower court carved out exceptions that prohibit it from being enforced along the southern border with Mexico and in El Paso — places where access to abortion is especially limited. The state is appealing.

Gov. Mary Fallin, who signed the legislation into law in May, said in a statement that she believes abortion "is wrong."

"I have been proud to work with lawmakers in both parties to support legislation that protects the health and lives of both mothers and their unborn children," she said.

Burns' lawsuit comes two days after a Tulsa medical clinic contended in a suit that an Oklahoma law restricting the use of abortion-inducing drugs was an unconstitutional violation of a woman's right to choose to end her pregnancy and should be declared void.

That suit was filed on behalf of Reproductive Services, a clinic that provides both surgical and medication-induced abortions.

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Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.