By Ken Miller | Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY — A divided Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned a portion of the state’s near-total ban on abortion, ruling that women have the right to an abortion when pregnancy puts their health at risk, not just in a medical emergency.
It was a narrow victory for abortion rights advocates since the US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.
The court ruled that under the state constitution, a woman has the right to have an abortion to preserve her life if her doctor determines that continuing the pregnancy would put her at risk because of a condition she has or is likely to develop during the pregnancy. Previously, the right to abortion could only occur in the event of a medical emergency.
“To require someone to wait until there is a medical emergency would further endanger the pregnant woman’s life and does not serve an overriding state interest,” the ruling said.
In the 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.
“The language ‘except to save a pregnant woman’s life in a medical emergency’ is very different from ‘save her life’,” the statement said.
“Absolute certainty”, according to the doctor, that the mother’s life could be endangered, “is not required, but mere possibility or speculation is insufficient” to establish that an abortion is necessary to preserve the woman’s life , said the statement.
However, the court declined to rule on whether the state constitution grants the right to abortion for other reasons.
The court ruled in the lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood, Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic and others challenging state laws passed after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
“People’s lives have been endangered by Oklahoma’s brutal ban on abortion, and now doctors can help pregnant people whose lives they believe are in danger,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. statement after the statement.
“We are disappointed that the Court has declined to decide whether the state constitution protects the right to abortion beyond these circumstances,” Northrup said.
“This ruling disregards too many residents of Oklahoma. Oklahoma residents should not have to travel across state lines 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 case, said in a statement. . .
Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Great Plains, called the ruling a small step toward restoring abortion rights.
“The Supreme Court of Oklahoma recognized one fundamental truth: patients must access critical care to save their lives,” she said. “But the right recognized today is so limited that most people who need an abortion will not be able to access it.”
Follow AP’s full coverage of abortion: