OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A divided Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned part of the state’s near-total ban on abortion, ruling that women have the right to have an abortion when pregnancy puts their health at risk, not just in case of a medical emergency.
It’s been a narrow victory for abortion-rights advocates since the US Supreme Court struck down the landmark case Roe v. Wade last year. Since then, conservative states, including Oklahoma, have imposed restrictions on abortion.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a woman has the right under the state Constitution to receive an abortion to preserve her life if her physician determines that continuing the pregnancy would endanger her due to a condition she has or that could develop during pregnancy. Previously, the right to an abortion could only occur in the event of a medical emergency.
“Requiring to wait until a medical emergency occurs would further endanger the pregnant woman’s life and does not serve an overriding state interest,” the ruling said.
In its 5-4 ruling, the court said state law uses both the words “preserve” and “save” the mother’s life as an exception to the abortion ban.
“Language ‘except to save a pregnant woman’s life in a medical emergency’ is very different from ‘preserve her life,'” according to the ruling.
“Absolute certainty,” on the part of the physician, that the mother’s life may be in danger, “is not required, however, mere possibility or speculation is insufficient” to determine that an abortion is necessary to preserve the woman’s life , according to the ruling.
The court, however, declined to rule on whether the state constitution grants the right to abortion for other reasons.
The court ruled in the lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood, Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic and others challenging the state laws passed after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, who had championed abortion rights nationwide for nearly half a century.
Since then, a patchwork of laws has caused some patients to travel to other states to get an abortion when it was outlawed where they lived.
“This ruling excludes too many Oklahomans. Oklahomans would not have to cross state lines just to get to an abortion clinic, and it is heartbreaking that many will not be able to do so,” Dr. Alan Braid, an abortion provider and plaintiff in the statement, said in a statement. case .
The Oklahoma ruling is unlikely to mean abortion becomes widely available.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this month over a Texas abortion ban, five women said they were denied abortions even when the pregnancy put their lives in danger. The lawsuit says the Texas law is causing confusion among doctors, who are turning away some pregnant women who have health issues because they fear repercussions.
Emily Wales, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Great Plains, called the ruling a small step towards restoring abortion rights.
“The Oklahoma Supreme Court has recognized a fundamental truth: Patients must be allowed access to critical care to save their lives,” he said. “But the right recognized today is so limited that most people who need an abortion will not be able to access it.”
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