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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 Modified: December 5, 2012 at 12:35 pm •  Published: December 4, 2012

Past rulings

Tuesday's rulings are the second and third time in slightly more than seven months that the state Supreme Court has struck down a proposal that it said goes against a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion

In late April, the justices rejected an effort to put on the ballot a question that would define a fertilized human egg as a person. They said in a unanimous ruling that the personhood proposal was void and should be stricken because the U.S. Supreme Court already had ruled in 1973's Roe v. Wade decision.

Both state Supreme Court decisions Tuesday were unanimous.

The Supreme Court voted 9-0 in the appeal of House Bill 1970, which legislators passed last year and would have required doctors to follow strict guidelines authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and would have prohibited off-label uses of the drugs, such as changing a recommended dosage or prescribing it for different symptoms than the drug was intended.

It also would have required doctors to examine women before prescribing the drugs, document certain medical conditions and schedule follow-up appointments.

Justices voted 8-0 on the appeal of HB 2780, which lawmakers passed in 2010 and would have required a doctor to show a pregnant woman a view of her fetus and describe in detail what is visible, including any limbs or organs. Justice Noma Gurich recused herself.

The Oklahoma justices referred in both cases to a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the constitutionality of several Pennsylvania state regulations regarding abortion was challenged.

The court upheld a woman's constitutional right to have an abortion, with the justices imposing a new standard to determine the validity of laws restricting abortions. The new standard asked whether a state abortion regulation has the purpose or effect of imposing an “undue burden,” which is defined as a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.”

Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Lindsay, author of the ultrasound measure, said she thinks the justices misinterpreted the U.S. Supreme Court decision and that it does allow informed consent for women seeking abortions.

“I'm actually very hopeful that some point in time we will be able to have a decision whether it's through being appealed … that every woman who is seeking to terminate her unborn child will have all of the information in her hands prior to her making that life-changing decision,” she said. “It may be a way off before we get there.”