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Oklahoma City, Ok, USA - October 10th, 2022: Oklahoma Judicial CenterVictoria Ditkovsky/Shutterstock

OKLAHOMA CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a ruling Tuesday on the state’s abortion laws that activists on both sides are claiming as a partial victory and a partial defeat, as it affirmed a “limited right” to abortion in cases of medical emergencies while leaving most of the existing abortion prohibition intact.

Last year, Oklahoma enacted one law empowering residents to bring civil suits against perpetrators of elective abortions, and another law making abortion a felony without rape or incest exceptions, but with an exception for “medical emergency.” Those laws took effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last June to overturn Roe v. Wade, restoring states’ ability to set their own abortion laws.

A coalition of abortionists and Planned Parenthood affiliates sued, and on Tuesday, the state’s highest court released its 5-4 decision, which rejected calls to “enjoin enforcement of two laws which criminalize abortion,” but at the same time found “there is a limited right to terminate a pregnancy that is protected by the Oklahoma Constitution,” when abortion is (supposedly) “necessary to preserve [a woman’s] life.”

READ: Abortionist turned pro-life doctor affirms killing a baby is ‘never necessary’ to save the mother’s life

“The language, ‘except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency’ is much different from ‘preserve her life’ found in § 861,” the majority ruled. “It restricts the performance of an abortion to only a pregnant woman who is ‘in a medical emergency’ which includes that her life ‘is endangered.’ 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. 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.”

At the same time, the Court agreed that “mere possibility or speculation [that a mother’s life is in danger] is insufficient” to authorize an exception, and that it would not be ruling on the constitutional standing of elective abortions (other challenges on the matter are still working their way through the system).

The ruling provoked disapproving statements from pro-lifers and abortion defenders alike.

“I wholeheartedly disagree with this activist majority’s opinion creating a right to an abortion in Oklahoma,” responded Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt. “Alarmingly, this activist majority acted out of hand by making a policy decision that belongs to the people […] Furthermore, in their 20 page opinion, not once was there any mention of the unborn. From the moment life begins at conception, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother.”

“The Oklahoma Supreme Court recognized one fundamental truth: patients must be permitted to access critical care to save their lives,” Planned Parenthood of Great Plains CEO Emily Wales said. “But the right recognized today is so limited that most people who need abortion will not be able to access it.”

As a practical matter, the ruling does not appear to significantly affect pro-life laws in the Sooner State, as the laws in question already made an exception for life-of-the-mother cases (as does virtually all pro-life legislation). However, it remains to be seen how the precedent will be used in the future, such as potentially expanding the exception beyond its stated intent.

The specter of women dying in childbirth due to being denied abortions is one of abortion activists’ most potent talking points, which has taken on special urgency for abortion activists now that Roe is no longer in effect. They have successfully used such fears to help defeat some pro-life ballot initiatives, despite being unfounded, as a matter of both medicine and law.

Numerous medical professionals, including former abortionists, have attested that, while many circumstances may necessitate delivering a baby before he or she can survive outside the womb or indirectly end the baby’s life, such treatments are not abortion as they do not entail direct, intentional violence on the child for the purpose of ending his or her life. In fact, direct induced abortion is typically the worst thing that could be done for women in an emergency, as it takes longer than administering actual care.

Further, every state with pro-life laws currently on the books explicitly makes exceptions for medical treatment to save the life of a mother, regardless of whether that treatment is classified as abortion. Additionally, the vast majority of abortions have never been sought for medical reasons, but for social, career, or financial considerations.

In the wake of Roe’s fall, Planned Parenthood has suspended abortions and/or closed locations across the country, and pro-life attorneys general have declared their intentions to enforce their states’ duly enacted abortion prohibitions.

But leftists prosecutors in various localities have vowed not to enforce such laws, and pro-abortion activists have refocused efforts on interstate distribution of abortion pills, interstate travel for abortion, and enshrining “rights” to abortion in state constitutions, effectively insulating the practice from ordinary state legislation.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has called on Congress to codify a “right” to abortion in federal law, which would not only restore but expand the Roe status quo by making it illegal for states to pass virtually any pro-life laws. Democrats currently lack the votes to do so, but whether they get those votes is sure to be one of the major issues of the 2024 elections.