life after roe

Oklahoma Court Narrowly Preserves Right to Lifesaving Abortion

Not necessarily for women, according to Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt. Photo: Sue Ogrocki/AP/Shutterstock

While the end of Roe v. Wade last year imposed terrible hardships on women across the country, there have been some glimmers of hope for supporters of reproductive rights — like voters in six states backing pro-choice ballot measures. But some states are so firmly in the grip of anti-abortion activists and their religious and political partners that good news on the issue is hard to come by.

One such state is Oklahoma. But this week, the State Supreme Court overturned a small part of the state’s near-total abortion ban, ruling in a 5-4 decision that abortions must be allowed in situations where there is a reasonable chance that the mother’s life is in danger. To be clear, the court didn’t go hog wild with the idea of protecting a woman’s right to life. As the Washington Post noted:

Oklahoma’s constitution protects the right to an abortion if “the woman’s physician has determined to a reasonable degree of medical certainty” that continuing “the pregnancy will endanger the woman’s life,” the court’s justices said in Tuesday’s ruling. “Absolute certainty” that the pregnancy will be life-threatening isn’t required, but “mere possibility or speculation” is insufficient, they added.

Even that pallid ruling required that a conservative justice break ranks and join with the court’s more liberal-leaning members. But the court explicitly declined to define any constitutional “right to an elective termination of a pregnancy” or to abortions carried out for reasons other than “preserving the life of the pregnant woman.”

This hairsplitting dispute over when exactly it’s appropriate to save pregnant women’s lives parallels another in equally deep-red Tennessee, where Republican legislators have been arguing over how close to death a woman must be before doctors can terminate a pregnancy.

Oklahoma’s Republican governor, Kevin Stitt, put out a statement saying, “I wholeheartedly disagree with this activist majority’s opinion creating a right to an abortion in Oklahoma,” making it clear that he was bitterly unhappy with his State Supreme Court’s small step toward decency.

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Oklahoma Narrowly Preserves Right to Lifesaving Abortion