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Friday March 5, 2010

Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules State Abortion Law Unconstitutional

By Peter J. Smith

OKLAHOMA CITY, February 22, 2010 ( – The Oklahoma Supreme Court has declared that an Oklahoma law regulating abortion practice and requiring ultrasounds for women seeking abortion violated the state constitution’s single-subject rule, saying it contained multiple subjects for legislation.

The high court struck down SB 1878, upholding the August 2009 decision of Oklahoma County Judge Vicki Robertson, who ruled the multiple legislative mandates in the law required separate bills to pass constitutional muster.

“We are growing weary of admonishing the Legislature for so flagrantly violating the terms of the Oklahoma Constitution,” read the decision, released Tuesday. “It is a waste of time for the Legislature and the Court, and a waste of the taxpayers’ money.”

The abortion law required abortionists to perform an ultrasound within an hour before the abortion procedure, and established the right of women to engage in civil action against abortionists who violated the law.

The law also required abortion clinics to have a notice prominently displayed in plain view declaring that: “it is against the law for anyone, regardless of his or her relationship to you, to force you to have an abortion. By law, we cannot perform, induce, prescribe for, or provide you with the means for an abortion unless we have your freely given and voluntary consent. … You have the right to contact any local or state law enforcement agency to receive protection from any actual or threatened physical abuse or violence.”

The law also regulated the prescribing of RU-486, dealt with informed consent, and established rules banning “wrongful birth” lawsuits.

The high court held that the legislation “facially, patently, and obviously contained multiple subjects” and had at least five different subjects of legislation contained within one bill.

Oklahoma County District Judge Daniel Owens in February struck down a law banning sex-selective abortion on the basis that additional abortion-related mandates violated the single-subject rule.

Attorneys for the state argued that the bill was constitutional because it addressed the same subject, namely, abortion. They said that the Court’s interpretation would have a paralyzing effect on the legislative process not intended when the single-subject rule was adopted, by turning every topical sentence into a new subject for legislation.

However, Oklahoma legislators have already submitted single-subjects bills – plan B in case the state Supreme Court rejected the law – that covers the multiple aspects of the single bill struck down by the high court.

A bill requiring abortionists to give women ultrasounds before an abortion passed the state House of Representatives on Thursday.

Click here to read the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision.

See related coverage by

Judge Strikes Down Oklahoma’s ‘Unconstitutional’ Ban on Sex-Selective Abortion

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