Oklahoma Just Tripled the Waiting Period for Abortions 


In her continued effort to make life as hard as possible for the women of Oklahoma, Governor Mary Fallin signed a new law last night that triples the state’s abortion waiting period, from 24 to 72 hours. Arkansas also recently extended its waiting period, and Florida and Tennessee are considering bills to do the same.

Fallin signed the bill on Wednesday; it goes into effect November 1. According to NewsOK, she said it was enacted with the ladies in mind, totally, of course: “This legislation will help women get the information they need before making a decision they can’t take back. It will allow for more time to consider medical risks as well as explore alternatives to abortion, such as adoption.”

Waiting periods don’t actually do that, of course, and the real intent seems to just be to create another hurdle. They do that quite well: a 2009 study by the Guttmacher Institute found that the main impact of waiting periods was to increase the number of women going out of state for abortions and the number of women seeking second trimester abortions. Last month, Oklahoma also banned a common second trimester abortion procedure. The two laws together create a really impressive no-win situation that, like most abortion restrictions, will largely impact poor women.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, which must surely get tired of putting out depressing press releases, is furious, pointing out that Oklahoma now has the longest waiting period in the region. Nancy Northup, the CRR’s president and CEo is quoted as saying, “This law’s purpose is to second-guess women’s ability to decide for themselves what is right for themselves and their families, and its effect will be to delay women from receiving safe, legal abortion care earlier in pregnancy. It’s time for Oklahoma politicians to get their priorities straight and actually advance women’s health and safety, not enact measure after measure that serve only to shame, demean, and harm women.”

Planned Parenthood is equally pissed; the CEO of its Oklahoma branch, Anita Fream, sent out a press release that says, in part, “We all want women to have the information and support they need to make a carefully considered decision about a pregnancy,” said Anita Fream, CEO of Planned Parenthood Central Oklahoma. “This misguided legislation blocks access to safe medical care for political, and not medical, reasons — which is why medical experts oppose it.”

Waiting period laws can be subject to costly, lengthy legal battles, and Oklahoma’s could very temporarily blocked. But the odds aren’t great that it would be struck down permanently. According to Guttmacher, 26 states currently have abortion waiting periods, mostly commonly 24 hours. The Supreme Court hasn’t specifically ruled on whether a 72-hour waiting period would constitute an “undue burden” for women seeking an abortion, but in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supremes decided a 24-hour period was just fine. Planned Parenthood fought hard against the first 72-hour waiting period, which was enacted in South Dakota, but were ultimately forced to drop the case. Utah and Missouri have also managed to enact and uphold 72-hour laws. In 2014, Planned Parenthood opted not to contest Missouri’s law, saying while they found it “onerous” and “burdensome,” their attorneys had advised them their chances of winning a legal challenge were slim.

In related news, now would be a particularly good time to donate to the Roe Fund, which helps fund abortions in Oklahoma.

Image via AP.

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