Oklahoma Supreme Court overturns two new abortion bans

Oklahoma Supreme Court overturns two new abortion bans
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Oklahoma, US: Oklahoma's Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that two abortion-banning laws approved last year are unconstitutional, The New York Times (NYT) reported.

However, the ruling has no effect on a 1910 law that still bans most abortions in the state unless they are essential to preserving the mother's life.

The laws that were overturned in court were civil laws that relied on private citizen suits to implement them. Both had established exceptions in the case of a "medical emergency."

However, the judges took issue with that language in their 6-3 decision, implying that the exceptions were too restrictive. They argued that a woman had a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy in order to preserve her life, without requiring a medical emergency, according to a report published in NYT.

Oklahoma is one of several Republican-led states that have sought to prohibit abortion in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year. Legal challenges arose quickly, and several cases were heard by state supreme courts. These courts have emerged as crucial arbiters in determining abortion access, as well as a new political front in the country's abortion debates. Courts in some conservative states have ruled that abortion rights are protected by their state constitutions.

The judgement also emphasised the legal complexities around how abortion restrictions and exceptions may be interpreted in circumstances where a woman's life is in danger. Doctors in other states with abortion prohibitions claimed it was difficult to care for patients without breaching the law, according to NYT.

Abortion rights organisations such as Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, a nonprofit volunteer organisation based in Oklahoma City, and medical practitioners such as the Tulsa Women's Reproductive Clinic have filed challenges to Oklahoma's anti-abortion laws.

The regulations that were overturned on Wednesday were modelled after legislation that went into effect in Texas in 2021, which prohibited abortion after around six weeks of pregnancy and focused on civilian rather than criminal enforcement to circumvent legal challenges, The New York Times reported.

Another measure passed in Oklahoma last year that made abortion a felony "except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency," was overturned by the state's Supreme Court in March.

In their opinion on Wednesday, the judges cited their March ruling, which was also concerned with the possibility of strict interpretations of the term "medical emergency."

Because of the 1910 law that was reinstated after Roe v. Wade, abortion is still mostly prohibited in Oklahoma, NYT reported.