Judge rejects challenge to Oklahoma’s 72 hour waiting period

By Dave Andrusko

It was over three and a half years ago that we reported that pro-life Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin had just signed HB 1409 into law. With her May 6, 2015, signature, it meant that there were then four states that allowed women considering an abortion 72 hours to ponder this life-and-death decision. The other three states were Missouri, South Dakota, and Utah.

Pro-life Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin
Photo: Michael Vadon

The number increased to five with a law in North Carolina, and to six with a law passed in Louisiana.

Although coming under challenge by the Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), the three-day waiting period has been in effect in Oklahoma since November 1, 2015.

On Tuesday, Judge Patricia Parrish granted the state’s request to toss that part of a lawsuit brought by the CRR that dealt with the 72-hour waiting period. In her brief four-page decision, Judge Parrish concluded

After weighing the expert testimony of both parties, the Court holds that HB1409 furthers a valid and legitimate state interest in protecting the patient and does not unduly burden or place a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s right to choose.

(The latter portion of the sentence refers to language used by the Supreme Court in its Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision.)

“The U.S. Supreme Court has already recognized that reflection periods ensure that important decisions such as abortion will be more informed and deliberate, and the district court faithfully followed this precedent,” Oklahoma Attorney General Michael Hunter said in praising the decision. “Studies have shown that women who have the benefit of a reflection period like this change their minds in a significant percentage of cases, saving precious unborn lives.

“Moreover, this law has been in place since 2015, and the facts developed in this case demonstrate that women in Oklahoma are not unduly burdened by this legislation.”

Tony Lauinger, State Chairman of Oklahomans For Life, previously told NRL News Today that HB 1409 improved Oklahoma’s current abortion-informed-consent law in three ways. (1) By increasing from 24 hours to 72 hours the waiting period before an abortion; (2) By requiring that abortion facilities, on their websites, link to the state’s Woman’s Right to Know website; and (3) by providing that mothers considering abortion be informed that “abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.”

“The purpose of the law,” he added, “is to provide a better opportunity for adequate reflection – following receipt of informed-consent information about risks, alternatives, and the development of the unborn child – before undertaking the irrevocable act of taking a child’s life.”