TWICE in two weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Oklahoma laws related to abortion. Lawmakers should learn from these defeats, and others like it. They should focus on passing bills grounded not in ideology but practicality.
Last week the nation's highest court chose not to review an Oklahoma law that would have required a doctor to use a vaginal probe or abdominal transducer to perform an ultrasound prior to an abortion, and to tell the woman what the ultrasound showed. Anti-abortion advocates view this as not overly intrusive or overbearing; indeed one federal appeals court has upheld a similar law.
However, the Oklahoma Supreme Court said the law presented an unconstitutional burden on women. In deciding not to review it, the high court essentially concurred. No surprise, given that the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently rejected efforts to restrict access to abortions. It was a long shot from the start that Oklahoma's law would hold up to the appeals that were promised even before lawmakers approved it.
The same is true of another abortion-related law that was struck down first by the state Supreme Court and then by the U.S. Supreme Court. That law involved the use of medication to induce abortion. The state court said it would have the effect of banning all drug-induced abortions; the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to review the case.
The state has had to invest time and resources defending these laws. The same thing happened after voters in 2010 approved a constitutional amendment — placed on the ballot by lawmakers — that would have prohibited state courts from considering Islamic law when deciding cases. Oklahomans voted overwhelmingly in favor of the idea, but it was immediately blocked by a federal court judge in Oklahoma City and, ultimately, the results were decertified.