Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Att'y Gen. Drummond issues opinion, guidance on state abortion laws

Drummond issues opinion, guidance on state abortion laws

OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 21, 2023) - Attorney General Gentner Drummond issued a formal opinion today explaining that Oklahoma law does not allow pregnant women to be punished for seeking, performing or self-inducing an abortion to intentionally terminate their pregnancy. The opinion was requested by four state senators and two state representatives.

“Oklahoma law does not allow the punishment of pregnant women attempting an abortion,” the opinion states. “The Legislature has repeatedly made this clear and just last year, repealed the one law that would have expressly allowed such a prosecution.”

The opinion notes that while Oklahoma law does not allow for pregnant women to be prosecuted, abortion is legally prohibited throughout pregnancy except to save the life of the mother. The opinion notes that historically, in Oklahoma and nationwide, pregnant women have not been prosecuted for seeking, obtaining or inducing an abortion.

In addition to the official opinion, Drummond issued updated guidance to Oklahoma law enforcement agencies and district attorneys regarding the state’s abortion laws. The original guidance was issued by former Attorney General John O’Connor in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. 

Drummond’s updated guidance emphasizes that criminal prosecution should be pursued only for those who intentionally perform or assist with an elective or on-demand abortion in Oklahoma. The guidance makes clear that Oklahoma law authorizes abortion only to save the life of the mother, and protects the judgment of medical professionals in making such a determination. 

“Medical doctors, in particular, should be given substantial leeway to treat pregnant women experiencing life-threatening or emergency physical conditions, using their reasoned medical judgment, so long as they are not unnecessarily terminating the life of the unborn child or intentionally abusing their position to facilitate elective abortions,” Drummond wrote in the guidance.

The memo comes after the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decisions earlier this year in OCRJ vs. Drummond and in OCRJ vs. Oklahoma, when Oklahoma’s two recent civil abortion statutes were declared unconstitutional due to overly narrow language regarding exceptions when a mother’s life is at risk. 

The opinion can be read here and the guidance here


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