Challenge of New Anti-Abortion Law Heard in Court
By SEAN MURPHY
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A new Oklahoma law targeting abortions that's scheduled to take effect next month violates the state constitution and should be voided by the state's highest court, an attorney for an abortion rights group argued Tuesday.
But attorneys for the state maintain the four separate provisions of the law all deal with enforcement of abortion-related measures and that the law is constitutional.
The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit last month on behalf of Dr. Larry Burns of Norman, who performs nearly half of Oklahoma's abortions and has been in practice for more than four decades. Ilene Jaroslaw with the center argued against the law during a hearing in front of Supreme Court referee Barbara Swimley, who will prepare a memo on the case.
The law encompasses four abortion-related topics: minors and parental consent; tissue preservation in cases where an abortion is performed on a child younger than 14; inspection and investigation of clinics; and criminal civil liability for abortion providers. It was contained in Senate Bill 642, which was overwhelmingly approved earlier this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin in June.
"SB 642 has four distinct subjects. It amends one law and creates three entirely different new laws," Jaroslaw argued. "This Supreme Court has held that it's not enough to say four subjects all have something to do with a broad and sweeping matter, such as abortion or freedom of conscience.
"This is classic logrolling."
But Assistant Attorney General Sarah Greenwalt said that because all four sections provide enforcement mechanisms for Oklahoma's reproductive health laws, the law does not violate a provision of the constitution that requires bills to deal only with one subject. She also argued there is no need for the high court to consider the case, or assume original jurisdiction, because the urgency cited by the petitioner is "entirely self-inflicted."
"Petitioner, per usual, has waited until the last minute to bring this challenge ... and manipulating this court into a rushed consideration of a duly-enacted law," Greenwalt said.
Swimley will present her memo to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which could immediately issue a ruling or order additional oral arguments.
The lawsuit marks the seventh time in the last five years that the Center for Reproductive Rights has filed legal challenges against abortion restrictions in Oklahoma.
An Oklahoma County judge is expected to hear arguments Wednesday in a separate legal challenge to the constitutionality of two new anti-abortion laws - banning a second-trimester abortion procedure and increasing the waiting period for women seeking an abortion.
(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)