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No U.S. Court Has Upheld Laws That Would Essentially Ban Second-Trimester Abortions. Until Now.

Oklahoma's D&E ban has been blocked since 2015. Similar laws have also been blocked in states like Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky and Texas.

by Carter Sherman
Jul 12 2019, 8:02pm

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An Oklahoma district court just became the first in the nation to uphold a ban on the most common method of performing second-trimester abortions.

On Friday, Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong upheld from the bench a bill dubbed “Oklahoma Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act,” which outlaws dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions. This procedure is typically used in abortions performed after 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Oklahoma's D&E ban has been blocked since 2015. Similar laws have also been blocked in states like Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky and Texas, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which first brought the lawsuit on behalf of a Tulsa abortion clinic.

In fact, late last month, the Supreme Court declined to review a decision striking down Alabama’s 2016 D&E ban, a move that left the ban permanently blocked. Under Supreme Court precedent, states are not allowed to place what’s called an “undue burden” on women who want abortions before a fetus is viable, which is generally thought to happen at 24 weeks of pregnancy.

“We cannot overstate the harm this decision will have on women in Oklahoma,” said Julie Rikelman, litigation director at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This law bans care that women need and doctors recommend and is part of a national strategy by anti-abortion politicians to push abortion care out of reach by passing hundreds of laws that limit access.”

The ban in Oklahoma is not currently in effect, and will not be at least until Truong issues a written opinion. At that point, the Center for Reproductive Rights can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma.

Cover: An exam room in the Trust Women South Wind Women's Center is pictured in Oklahoma City, Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. Six licensed physicians are providing services, including abortions, OB-GYN care, family planning, adoption and emergency contraception. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)