The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a ruling that an Oklahoma abortion drug law was unconstitutional.
Justices made no comments in disposing of the closely watched case with a single sentence.
The nation's highest court acted days after the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that the 2011 law “effectively bans all medication abortions.”
The law was the latest in a series of abortion measures in Oklahoma to be struck down.
Its author said he will try again.
State Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, said the intent of the 2011 law actually was to make sure that abortion-inducing drugs “are used in the only way that has been tested and approved by the” U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The law required mifepristone (RU-486) or any other abortion-inducing drug to be provided only as explicitly approved by the FDA.
Supporters contend off-label uses have led to women's deaths.
“The legislative intent was to protect Oklahoma patients and ensure that these drugs are used in a safe, appropriate, responsible manner,” Grau said.
He said he will introduce more specific language that will deal with any concerns that could be raised in the future in the courts.
Opponents of the law praised the U.S. Supreme Court's decision as upholding women's rights.
“The Supreme Court has let stand a strong decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court that recognized this law for what it is: an outright ban on a safe method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages, and an unconstitutional attack on women's health and rights,” said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.
The center challenged the law in 2011 on behalf of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and a Tulsa facility, Nova Health Systems.
Northup said, “Politicians have been pushing for these restrictions nationwide under the thin pretext of protecting women's health, but their real agenda is to deny women their right to end a pregnancy safely, early, and in consultation with their doctors.
“This should send a strong message to politicians in Oklahoma and across the U.S. that women's constitutional rights are not up for debate and cannot be legislated away.”
An Oklahoma County judge in 2012 found the law unconstitutional, ruling its restriction on abortion-inducing drugs “is so completely at odds with the standard that governs the practice of medicine that it can serve no purpose other than to prevent women from obtaining abortions and to punish and discriminate against those who do.”
The Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld that decision in December.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt then challenged the finding to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In an unusual step, the U.S. Supreme Court in June accepted the case but asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to clarify its ruling.
In its decision last week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court specifically noted the 2011 law as written would prohibit the use of methotrexate to treat ectopic pregnancies — those where the embryo implants outside the uterus.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court also noted last week: “Human progress is not static: medical research and advances do not stop upon a particular drug's approval by the FDA. Researchers continue to perform clinical trials, doctors continue to gain experience, and widespread use of a particular treatment allows the medical community to collect data about side effects, alternative doses, and potential new uses for treatments. Ninety-six percent of medication abortions in the United States are now provided according to a regimen different from the one described in mifepristone's FDA-approved label.”
Law supporters' reaction
Supporters of the law said the outcome Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court was expected in light of the Oklahoma Supreme Court's opinion last week.
Pruitt said, “Given the Oklahoma Supreme Court's overly broad and erroneous interpretation of the Oklahoma law, the U.S. Supreme Court had little choice but to dismiss the case.
“We are disappointed with the state court's interpretation of a law that was crafted by the Legislature to protect Oklahoma women from potentially deadly protocols that have never been approved by the FDA.”