Tuesday, May 31, 2005

No Temporary Injunction for Oklahoma's New Abortion Law

Last Friday, Senior U.S. District Judge H. Dale Cook denied a Tulsa clinic's request for a restraining order to suspend a new state law requiring parental notification before girls age 18 and younger can receive an abortion.

Judge Cook ruled that plaintiff Nova Health Systems, the parent of the Tulsa clinic, did not show that the law signed by Gov. Brad Henry on May 20 was unconstitutional and adverse to the public interest.

The ruling allows the law, which had an emergency clause and took effect immediately after Henry signed it, to continue without change, said spokesman Charlie Price of the Oklahoma Attorney General's office.

Attorneys for the Reproductive Services clinic had argued that the law puts at risk girls who do not have parents or come from a dysfunctional family and must ask a court to waive the parental notification provision.

In a 12-page ruling, Cook said the law ``does not infringe on a minor's constitutional right to an abortion nor does the Act deny expedited access to the courts to authorize a minor's abortion without one of her parents' notification.''

The law ``clearly sets forth expedition and confidentiality at every level of the judicial bypass process for the protection of the health, safety and welfare of every minor who seeks to utilize it,'' Cook wrote.

Attorneys for Nova Health Systems _ which has Reproductive Services as a subsidiary _ had asked Cook to act quickly because it had abortions scheduled on Tuesday and argued that a delay of even a few days can make abortions more risky.

``Certainly we're disappointed, and we're most concerned for those young women who need to avail themselves of the judicial bypass procedure,'' said Martha Hardwick, a Tulsa attorney for Nova. ``We just hope the courts will be as expeditious in their handling of it as Judge Cook believes they will be.''

Cook's ruling applies only to the request for a time-sensitive temporary restraining order and not to the ultimate constitutionality of the entire law. Attorneys expect to continue with briefings and arguments.


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