OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday temporarily blocked a controversial law outlawing a second-trimester abortion procedure that critics call cruel dismemberment of a fetus but advocates say is the safest and most common method after about three months of pregnancy.
In a 6-2 decision, the high court issued an injunction against House Bill 1721, known as the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act of 2015, while the court considers the appeal. Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong upheld the law four months ago, spurring an appeal filed by the Tulsa Women’s Reproductive Clinic.
Oral arguments have yet to be scheduled, according to court records.
The law has never been in effect as it has faced court challenges since its enactment. It bans the dilation and evacuation procedure that alternates the use of suction and forceps to remove the contents of a uterus until empty. Opponents of the law say the procedure is the safest and most common form of abortion after approximately 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The Center for Reproductive Rights represents the Tulsa clinic. The group’s lead counsel on the case, Autumn Katz, said Monday that doctors in violation of the law could face up to two years in state prison and a $10,000 fine.
“Under this law, doctors would be subject to criminal penalties for providing abortions consistent with the standard of care,” she said in a written statement. “This ban was motivated by politics, not medicine, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court recognized that today.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, a Republican, deemed the law as necessary in banning “the gruesome practice of dismembering unborn children while they are still alive” inside a mother. He claimed in July the procedure subjects “unborn children to more cruelty than we allow for death row inmates” and said the trial judge’s ruling “is a major victory for basic human decency” in the state.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has publicly opposed such bans, stating in 2015 that they “represent legislative interference at its worst” and doctors will be forced “by ill-advised, unscientifically motivated policy, to provide lesser care to patients.”
Courts in several other states have blocked similar bans, including those in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky and Texas.
The nine-member high court currently has one vacancy that Republican Governor Kevin Stitt has yet to fill.