The Oklahoma Supreme Court has narrowly ruled in favour of a slight amendment to one of the strictest abortion laws in the United States.
The state had previously only allowed the procedure when there was a medical emergency threatening the mother’s life.
Judges of the state’s highest court voted 5-4 that it violated the inherent ‘right to life’ clause of the Oklahoma constitution when a mother’s life was at risk.
They ruled that a doctor does not need to wait until there is an immediate medical emergency to intervene to save a woman’s life.
The judges said doctors just needed “a reasonable degree of medical certainty or probability” that a pregnancy puts a mother’s life at risk.
The decision comes amid widespread uncertainty in states with abortion bans about when doctors can perform the procedure if needed to preserve the mother’s life or health.
Reuters reports some women have been forced to wait until they are in immediate danger before obtaining an abortion, even when doctors foresaw the risk much earlier.
Twelve of the 50 US states, including Oklahoma, now ban abortion outright while many others prohibit it after a certain length of pregnancy.
Oklahoma does not allow an exception in the case of rape or incest.
State Senators have so far refused to hear a bill that would allow that exemption.
Lawmakers indicated they don’t yet have the numbers to pass the legislation.