Federal court strikes down Oklahoma law

Saturday, June 15th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A federal court in Tulsa on Friday struck down a state law requiring minor women to notify their parents before having an abortion.

An opinion by U.S. District Judge Claire V. Eagan said the 1-year-old law was unconstitutionally vague and failed to follow guidelines of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Specifically, the judge ruled that the law did not provide an exception to the parental notification requirement when there is a medical emergency.

She said it also did not adhere to a Supreme Court requirement that notification laws give young women an avenue to go into court to show that they are mature enough to make a decision on an abortion.

The lawsuit was filed by Nova Health Systems, which does business as Reproductive Services, an abortion provider in Tulsa.

Defendants were Dean Gandy, executive director of University Hospitals Authority; Mike Fogarty, chief officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority; Terry Cline, state mental health commissioner; David Boren, president of the University of Oklahoma and James Halligan, president of Oklahoma State University.

Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Sharrock, who defended the law, was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.

Gov. Frank Keating, who was in Dallas on Friday, said he hopes Eagan's ruling ``will be quickly reversed.''

``The reality is we're talking about children who are going to have an abortion. That's a surgical procedure. To say that for me as a dad not to be notified of that _ but I would be notified if my child took two aspirin at school _ that's absurd,'' Keating said.

State Sen. Scott Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow, one of the law's authors, said he would consider drafting new legislation on the issue.

``Young people 17 and under should not be making these decisions on their own,'' he said.

Bebe Anderson, who represented the plaintiffs, said it was ``an important ruling for minor women in Oklahoma who have a right to obtain abortion services within the state.

``This law did not meet the requirements that the U.S. Supreme Court has laid down for laws that interfere with that right.''

Anderson is an attorney for the New York-based Reproductive Law and Policy.

The law went into effect June 4, 2001, after Keating signed it.