The state has agreed not to enforce a new abortion law — criticized as one of the nation’s most restrictive — until a judge rules on a legal challenge.
Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich signed the agreement Monday afternoon. Her action temporarily halts enforcement of the law requiring pregnant women to undergo ultrasounds right before abortions. Legislative leaders said the development was expected. A Tulsa medical clinic and a Norman doctor are challenging the law on constitutional grounds. The law was in effect for less than a week. The law requires an abortion provider to perform an ultrasound on a pregnant woman at least an hour before the procedure so she can see the images of the fetus. The woman can avert her eyes if she wants. The doctor or certified technician also must describe what is being shown, including whether the heart of the fetus or embryo is beating. Legislators required the ultrasound "in order for the woman to make an informed decision.” "It’s part of the informed consent before she makes an irrevocable decision,” said the law’s author, Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Lindsay. "Why wouldn’t we allow her all that information?” The law went into effect April 27 after the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto. Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, said the law had numerous flaws including that it did not exempt rape and incest victims. "It would be unconscionable to subject rape and incest victims to such treatment,” he said. The Reproductive Services clinic in Tulsa and the Norman doctor, Larry Burns, are represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York organization. Center attorneys have successfully challenged two other Oklahoma abortion laws. "Politicians have no business making medical decisions,” one center attorney, Stephanie Toti, said last week. Defending the lawsuit is Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s office. One of his assistants signed the agreement approved by the judge. "Procedures like this are customary for courts while they examine a ruling,” said Glenn Coffee, state Senate president pro tempore.