News Column

Supreme Court Weighs Oklahoma Abortion Law Case

June 28, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday said it may hear Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's appeal of a recent decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court to toss out a law regulating medical abortions.

But before it proceeds further, the nation's high court asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to answer two questions.

Medical abortions involve the use of drugs to terminate pregnancy, as opposed to a surgical abortion.

"This is an extraordinary decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to review the actions of Oklahoma's Supreme Court, which has consistently misapplied federal law to strike down Oklahoma abortion laws," Pruitt said. "This law does not ban the use of abortion-inducing drugs, but seeks to protect women from harmful off-label uses. The Court grants less than 1 percent of such review requests and we look forward to the opportunity to defend Oklahoma's right to protect its citizens."

In December, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found House Bill 1970 unconstitutional.

The bill, by Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, and Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, put restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs.

The measure, signed into law in 2011, had been challenged in district court by the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and Reproductive Services in Tulsa. They are represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Michelle Movahed, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said she was not surprised the nation's high court agreed to hear the case because it is an indication it is taking seriously concerns raised by the center's clients.

The district court made it clear that the law was so completely at odds with the standards that govern the practice of medicine that it couldn't serve any other purpose than to discriminate against women seeking an abortion and to prevent them from getting the care they desire, Movahed said.

The state's high court said the measure was unconstitutional based on a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutional right to have an abortion.

In his appeal, Pruitt says the state's high court improperly held that the 1992 opinion "categorically bars states from enacting any abortion-related regulations."

Pruitt said the Oklahoma Supreme Court used a flawed interpretation of U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

"The Oklahoma Supreme Court's trend of invalidating state limitations on abortion interferes with the state's constitutional duty to regulate the public health and safety of its citizens," Pruitt's appeal said. "Additionally, the Oklahoma Supreme Court's cursory opinions offer the Oklahoma Legislature with scant guidance as to how they might permissibly regulate in this area."

The U.S. Supreme Court wanted to know if House Bill 1970 prohibited the use of misoprostol to induce abortions, including the use of it with mifepristone, also called RU-486, according to a protocol approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It also wanted to know if the bill prohibited the use of methotrexate to treat ectopic pregnancies, or a complication where the embryo implants outside the uterine cavity.

Mifepristone is used to end a pregnancy by detaching the gestational sac from the uterine wall, according to Pruitt's brief.

Source: (c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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