Oklahoma judge halts 1 abortion law, lets another stand

AP News
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Posted: Oct 14, 2015 3:03 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A proposed new anti-abortion law that would ban a common second-trimester abortion procedure was temporarily blocked Wednesday, but an Oklahoma judge declined to halt a second law increasing the waiting period for women seeking an abortion.

Oklahoma County District Court Judge Patricia Parrish delivered her split ruling after the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights challenged both new laws, passed earlier this year by the GOP-dominated state Legislature, on behalf of a Tulsa abortion clinic.

Both laws were set to take effect Nov. 1. The temporary injunction will last until a full hearing is held on the center's challenge to the laws, and Parrish gave attorneys three months to prepare briefs.

The law that was temporarily blocked would prohibit a second-trimester abortion procedure called "dilation and evacuation," specifically banning doctors from using forceps, clamps, scissors or similar instruments on a live fetus to remove it from the womb in pieces. Critics and medical professionals have described it as ultimately resulting in dismemberment.

Only one other state, Kansas, has passed such a law, which also was temporarily blocked by a judge, said Autumn Katz, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights who argued the Oklahoma case before Parrish.

"(The law) would have prohibited the most common method of performing a second-trimester abortion," Katz said after the hearing.

The state argued the law was not intended to prohibit all abortions using that procedure, but only those that are performed while the fetus is still alive, which Assistant Attorney General Mithun Mansinghani called "the most brutal form of abortion."

The law Parrish declined to block would triple the state's mandatory waiting period from 24 to 72 hours for women seeking an abortion after a doctor gives her details about the procedure, such as the age of the fetus and the risks involved, as well as telling the woman that ultrasound and heart monitoring are available.

Parrish said at least three other states — Missouri, South Dakota and Utah — already have 72-hour waiting periods in place. Several other states impose 48-hour waiting times.

But Katz argued that because abortion clinics are only open a few days each week, making women wait an additional two days could actually lead to a delay of as much as a week.

"The risks with any abortion procedure increase as the pregnancy advances," she said.

Katz said she plans to consult with her client before deciding whether to appeal Wednesday's ruling.

Katz said the Oklahoma Legislature has approved at least 19 restrictions on abortion over the past eight years, six of which her organization has successfully stopped.

"I think it's quite clear from the onslaught of restrictions on abortion that the Oklahoma Legislature has passed over the last few years ... that their ultimate goal is to chip away at abortion until there is absolutely no access to abortion in this state," she said.

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Online:

House Bill 1721: http://bit.ly/19LxlZ5

House Bill 1409: http://bit.ly/1JUEx0l

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy