State law would ban all drug-induced abortions, Oklahoma high court says

In a closely watched case that will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Oklahoma Supreme Court agrees with abortion rights group on law regarding abortion-inducing drugs.
BY CHRIS CASTEEL ccasteel@opubco.com Modified: October 29, 2013 at 8:37 pm •  Published: October 29, 2013

Decision praised, criticized

An Oklahoma County district judge first struck down the law, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld that ruling. Pruitt appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June took the unusual step of accepting the case but then asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to clarify its ruling. The nation's high court asked the state court to determine whether the state law would ban all drug-induced abortions.

The U.S. Supreme Court also asked whether the state law would ban methotrexate for ectopic pregnancies — those in which the embryo implants outside the uterus. The state court said Tuesday that the state law would ban methotrexate to treat those pregnancies since the drug was never specifically approved for that purpose.

With the answers from the state court, the U.S. Supreme Court will now determine how to approach the case.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which provided legal counsel to the Oklahoma coalition, said the group is confident the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold the state court's decision.

The state decision “strongly reaffirms that this blatantly unconstitutional law was designed to not only rob women of the safe, legal and effective option of medication to end a pregnancy at its earliest stages, but also threaten the health, lives and future fertility of women suffering from ectopic pregnancies,” Northup said.

Pruitt, while defending the law as a proper restriction on off-label protocols, also has argued that it would be constitutional even if interpreted to ban all drug-induced abortions.

He said Tuesday, “We took the extraordinary step of asking for a review by the U.S. Supreme Court because we believed the Oklahoma Supreme Court erred in striking down the law.

“We believe they have erred yet again by interpreting the law more broadly than the Legislature intended. Despite the court's misinterpretation, we intend to enforce the law as written, if upheld, and continue to fight for improved care that protects Oklahoma women from harmful outcomes.”