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Oklahoma law would ban all drug-induced abortions, group contends

An abortion rights group argues in a key legal filing that the practical effect of a 2009 law was sweeping.
by Chris Casteel Published: September 14, 2013

— An Oklahoma abortion law that has drawn the interest of the U.S. Supreme Court was written in sweeping terms to ban all drug-induced abortions, an abortion rights group argued to the Oklahoma Supreme Court this week.

The statute “flatly prohibits any medication from being used off-label to terminate a pregnancy,” the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice said in a brief filed Thursday.

The question of whether the 2009 law effectively prohibits all drug-induced abortions or just ones that don't follow a federally approved protocol, is at the heart of the U.S. Supreme Court's inquiry to the Oklahoma Supreme Court in the case.

The law was struck down by an Oklahoma County district judge, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that it violated a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on state abortion restrictions.

However, the Oklahoma Supreme Court's opinion did not include a thorough analysis of the law and left open the question of what the justices found to be unconstitutional.

The law was written with the apparent intent of banning so-called off-label uses of the drugs, including RU-486, used to induce abortion. In the years after the Food and Drug Administration approved a two-drug protocol to induce abortion, practicing physicians modified the regimen to reduce the amount of one drug needed.

When it was challenged, the arguments focused almost exclusively on whether the state could constitutionally prohibit the regimen that was widely used but had not been approved by the FDA.

Even when Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt appealed the Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, there was little attention paid to the question of whether the law had the effect of banning all drug-induced abortions.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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