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Judge's ruling clears the way for 3 laws' new abortion restrictions to take effect Nov. 1

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Updated Oct. 4, 8:13 p.m.  

An Oklahoma County judge on Monday denied a request by reproductive rights advocates to block some new abortion restrictions from taking effect next month.

Judge Cindy Truong ruled a requirement for abortion providers to be board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology can go forward Nov. 1, along with a certification program and additional restrictions on medications, which are now the primary method for abortion in the state. The drugs are already strictly regulated.

The medication-induced abortion restrictions include 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 an ultrasound requirement that is more restrictive than an ultrasound law the state Supreme Court already struck down.

"The OB-GYN requirement will immediately disqualify more than half of the doctors providing abortions in the state," said Rabia Muqaddam, a staff attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which challenged five new Oklahoma laws. "Every day that law remains in effect, we’re talking about really catastrophic fallout."

OB-GYNs are not necessarily trained in abortion care. Abortion is within the scope of practice for many types of physicians, and becoming board-certified in a specialty is a years-long, voluntary process on top of medical licensure.

Many abortion providers are family practice physicians.

Dr. Alan Braid, the owner of Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic, said the consequences of the judge’s ruling on Monday will have reverberations throughout the entire South.

"Oklahoma clinics were already inundated with patients from both Texas and Oklahoma, and if these laws take effect, many Oklahoma abortion providers won’t be able to provide care," Braid said in a statement. "Where will all these patients go? Politicians are trying to trap them, and they are succeeding. But we will not stop fighting these restrictions."

Plaintiffs plan to appeal the ruling. In a statement, Planned Parenthood Great Plains interim President and CEO Emily Wales said the organization is used to "drawn-out" litigation over abortion restrictions.

"Cases like the one we’ve brought in Oklahoma are, unfortunately, a regular part of the fight to protect care, and we’re committed to doing all it takes to protect our patients’ access to safe, legal abortion," Wales said. "The hardest part of having to challenge medically unnecessary and targeted restrictions is the toll they take on patients, who are forced to worry about the uncertainties around their ongoing access to essential, time-sensitive healthcare."

Truong did block two other laws. One was a so-called "heartbeat bill" to ban abortions starting at about six weeks, before many people know they’re pregnant. The other would have added abortion to the list of unprofessional conduct for doctors, resulting in their license being suspended at least a year.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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