Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down 2 anti-abortion laws

Oklahoma justices rule in two separate opinions that laws requiring women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound image placed in front of them while they hear a description of the fetus, and that ban off-label use of certain abortion-inducing drugs are unconstitutional.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: December 5, 2012 at 12:35 pm •  Published: December 4, 2012
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Anti-abortion advocates were struck with a double blow Tuesday when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled two state laws are unconstitutional. The laws would have required a woman to have an ultrasound at least one hour before getting an abortion and would have restricted the off-label use of certain abortion-inducing drugs such as RU-486.

The high court ruled in separate opinions that lower court judges were correct to block the laws.

In both cases, the Supreme Court said the laws violated a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision. It's the third time this year Oklahoma justices have struck down an anti-abortion measure because it went against a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that women have a constitutional right to an abortion.

“Because the United States Supreme Court has previously determined the dispositive issue presented in this manner, this court is not free to impose its own view of the law,” the Oklahoma Supreme Court's opinions state.

“The Oklahoma Constitution reaffirms the effect of the supremacy clause on Oklahoma law by providing, ‘The state of Oklahoma is an inseparable part of the federal union, and the constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land.'”

Reaction to ruling

Michelle Movahed, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, the New York-based group that filed legal challenges to both state measures, said the Supreme Court's rulings were “a resounding rejection of the Oklahoma Legislature's attempt to restrict women's constitutional rights.

“I hope that the Oklahoma Legislature does take a lesson and turn to subjects that won't involve clear violations of the Constitution,” she said.

Nancy Northup, president and chief executive officer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based group that filed legal challenges to both state measures, said her group is pleased with the rulings.

“As the courts that have already heard these cases have resoundingly affirmed, a woman's right to a full range of reproductive health care is fundamental and constitutionally protected,” Northup said.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt whose office appealed lower-court decisions that invalidated the laws said the state may appeal the decisions to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We disagree with the court's decision, particularly with the fact that the question on whether Oklahoma's constitution provides a right to an abortion was left unanswered,” Pruitt said.

“We also are disappointed that the court upheld the district court ruling on abortion-inducing drugs such as RU-486,” Pruitt said.

“There is overwhelming evidence that the off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs leads to serious infections and death for many healthy, unsuspecting women. This is not OK. Our job is to protect the citizens of Oklahoma, and we will consider an appeal.”



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