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Oklahoma's abortion law falls in court

NOLAN CLAY and JULIE BISBEE Modified: August 19, 2009 at 10:35 am •  Published: August 19, 2009
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A judge Tuesday struck down a controversial state abortion law requiring ultrasounds on grounds one legislator called a technicality.

Oklahoma County District Judge Vicki Robertson ruled the law unconstitutional, finding it violated a requirement that legislation deal with a single subject.

The judge noted the 2008 abortion law was a compilation of five separate bills. She did not rule on other legal complaints about the law.

Legislators reacted by promising to keep pushing for anti-abortion measures.

The most controversial aspect of the law was a requirement that an abortion doctor or medical technician give a pregnant woman an ultrasound at least an hour before the procedure and display the images of the unborn baby where the woman could see them.

The law required the doctor or technician also to describe what the woman was seeing, including if the fetus’ heart was beating.

The bill’s author, Sen. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond, said he would "likely make a formal request” that the attorney general appeal the ruling.

"I don’t think it violates the single-subject rule,” Lamb said. "There are multiple provisions and sections of this legislation and the argument could be made that it’s pro-life all the way through.”

The state Supreme Court has said the single subject rule in the Oklahoma Constitution prevents a situation where a legislator is forced to assent to an unfavorable provision of a law to secure passage of a favorable provision.

The attorney for the state, Teresa Collett, special assistant attorney general, said the provisions all related to a single subject — the practices related to the taking of human life in a medical setting.

"We’re optimistic that, should we appeal it, we would prevail,” she said.

The law never went into effect because of a legal challenge brought by a Tulsa clinic, Reproductive Services.

The law — called the Freedom of Conscience Act — also dealt with other aspects of abortions, including restrictions on use of the RU-486 abortion pill and provisions protecting the rights of health care providers who refuse to take part in abortions.