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The Oklahoma Supreme Court released a common-sense, narrow ruling this week clarifying the legality of abortion when a woman’s life is endangered by her pregnancy. This rightly returns complex decisions about medical care back to Oklahoma women, their families and their physicians.
Since the right to abortion was overturned last year, Oklahoma statutes have left doctors and other caregivers open to unprecedented lawsuits and prison sentences of 10 years for providing an abortion except in the case of “medical emergency.” This law requires physicians to withhold the indicated treatment ― termination of pregnancy ― and watch as a woman gets sicker with the hope of intervening in time to prevent her death or permanent complications.
Health care providers understand how dangerous these restrictions are. The same restrictions in Texas led to a doubling of intensive care admissions for pregnant women. The legally required delays in care left some women unable to have children in the future. Deaths due to pregnancy complications in Oklahoma are already some of the highest in the developed world. Oklahoma’s current law will result in more preventable maternal deaths.
Gov. Kevin Stitt’s response to this clarification of the law was to call it an “activist majority's opinion creating a right to an abortion in Oklahoma.” In reality, this ruling will only affect pregnancies where the mother’s life or health is endangered. These are typically wanted pregnancies where complications have developed that require termination of pregnancy to preserve the life or health of the mother. Polls have shown that Oklahomans are not in favor of the severe restrictions that have been placed on abortion by our legislators and signed by the governor.
This is a welcome ruling that will allow doctors to give women appropriate care without unnecessary delay. Oklahoma women deserve better from our state than the cruelty inherent in our current law.
Dr. Dana Stone is a practicing obstetrician gynecologist in Oklahoma City.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma's abortion ruling returns decisions to women, physicians