Health law

State constitution protects right to abortion to protect life of mother, top Oklahoma court rules

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Women in Oklahoma have a state constitutional right to an abortion when needed to save their lives, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Tuesday in a challenge by abortion providers and reproductive-rights groups.

A March 21 press release is here.

The state supreme court based its decision on provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution that protect due process and inherent rights. The inherent rights provision reads: “All persons have the inherent right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry.”

The Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned a law that banned abortions to save a woman’s life—unless she was experiencing a “medical emergency.” Requiring a woman to wait for a medical emergency “would further endanger the life of the pregnant woman and does not serve a compelling state interest,” the state supreme court said.

But the state supreme court upheld a law enacted before Roe v. Wade that bans abortion, “unless the same is necessary to preserve her life.”

“A woman has an inherent right to choose to terminate her pregnancy if at any point in the pregnancy, the woman’s physician has determined to a reasonable degree of medical certainty or probability that the continuation of the pregnancy will endanger the woman’s life due to the pregnancy itself or due to a medical condition that the woman is either currently suffering from or likely to suffer from during the pregnancy,” the Oklahoma Supreme Court said. “Absolute certainty is not required; however, mere possibility or speculation is insufficient.”

The state supreme court did not reach the question whether the Oklahoma Constitution protects a broader right to abortion.

Publications with coverage of the decision include the Oklahoman, Reuters, the Associated Press and the Washington Post.

See also: “North Dakota Constitution protects abortions needed to protect women’s life and health, top state court says”

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