Oklahoma Sued to Halt Abortion Law Wherein Doctors Could Lose License Over Procedure

Oklahoma was sued by a band of abortion rights proponents, clinics and advocacy groups looking to halt state legislation restricting abortions from being enacted, the Associated Press reported. Republican Governor Kevin Stitt signed the legislation, due to take effect November 1, into law in April this year.

The lawsuit was filed in an Oklahoma City state district court Thursday. Under the law, performing an abortion would be designated as "unprofessional conduct," and a doctor's license could be in danger of being revoked.

All doctors who administer abortions would be required to have board certification in obstetrics and gynecology. Additionally, the procedure would be prohibited in cases where a fetal heartbeat can be detected, and the law stipulates that any doctor who performs an abortion past the threshold would be committing homicide, the AP reported.

Similar legislation took effect in Texas Wednesday after being signed by Gov. Greg Abbott in May. The Texas law prohibits patients from receiving abortions after six weeks, or when a a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

The legislation relies on private citizens to enforce the abortion restrictions by allowing them to sue anyone who aids a patient in getting the procedure. This can include anyone from the doctor who performed the abortion to someone who drives a patient to a clinic where the procedure was administered.

Those who successfully sue someone who helped a patient get an abortion could receive at least $10,000 in damages. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to deny an emergency appeal to block the Texas law from being enacted this week.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt
A lawsuit was filed in Oklahoma Thursday challenging a restrictive abortion law signed by Governor Kevin Stitt in April. Above, Stitt speaks during a roundtable at the State Dining Room of the White House on June 18, 2020. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Oklahoma lawsuit also seeks to block legislation restricting drug-induced abortions, including requirements previously struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Those include an admitting privileges requirement that has been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Oklahoma Supreme Court, and an ultrasound requirement that is more restrictive than an ultrasound law the state Supreme Court already struck down.

Neither the governor's office nor state attorney general's office immediately replied to requests for comment.

"The Oklahoma Supreme Court has found time and again that the state legislature's extreme attempts to restrict abortion are unconstitutional," lead plaintiff Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. "If allowed to take effect, these laws would end abortion access in Oklahoma, forcing patients to travel great distances and cross state lines to get essential health care."

The laws have been criticized by the New York-based group, which has successfully sued to overturn numerous anti-abortion laws in recent years. However, a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court declined Thursday to intervene to block the Texas law from taking effect, causing a surge of women to rush to adjoining states to seek abortions.

Demonstration Against Texas Abortion Law
The Oklahoma lawsuit comes on the heels of a restrictive new abortion law passed in Texas. Above, protesters march down Lavaca Street outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Sergio Flores/Getty Images