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U.S. Supreme Court seeks answers in Oklahoma abortion case

The nation's high court accepts an abortion case and asks the Oklahoma Supreme Court to answer questions about the impact of a 2011 law on abortion-inducing drugs.
by Chris Casteel Modified: June 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm •  Published: June 28, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court did not give the Oklahoma court a deadline and is not likely to take further action in the case until its next term begins in October.

Attorneys react

Because the abortion rights groups won the case in Oklahoma courts, it had urged the U.S. Supreme Court not to review the law, in part because of the critical dispute over the law's effect on all medication abortions.

Michelle Mohaved, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the Oklahoma coalition, said Thursday, “I think it's important that the (U.S.) Supreme Court is taking seriously the questions we raised about the breadth of the law.”

Mohaved declined to speculate on how the U.S. Supreme Court would proceed after receiving a response from the Oklahoma court.

Pruitt had sought the high court review, hoping justices would ultimately agree that the law did not violate the U.S. Constitution.

Pruitt said Thursday, “This is an extraordinary decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to review the actions of Oklahoma's Supreme Court, which has consistently misapplied federal law to strike down Oklahoma abortion laws.

“This law does not ban the use of abortion-inducing drugs, but seeks to protect women from harmful off-label uses. The court grants less than 1 percent of such review requests and we look forward to the opportunity to defend Oklahoma's right to protect its citizens.”

Off-label protocol

The FDA-approved protocol for RU-486 and misoprostol requires three visits to a clinic and a 600-mg dose of mifepristone; the procedure could be used up to 49 days into a pregnancy.

However, since that protocol was established, an alternative method has been developed that requires a smaller dose of mifepristone and can be used up to 63 days into the pregnancy. Also, the dose of misoprostol can be taken at home.

So-called evidence-based regimes are common and legal; and, according to the Oklahoma abortion rights groups, the alternative regime accounts for two-thirds of all abortions at a Tulsa clinic.

The groups say the medical community regards the prevailing regimen as superior to the FDA-approved protocol because it's safer, more effective and cheaper. But Pruitt argued that eight women have died from bacterial infections using the alternative regimen and that state legislators were trying to address a serious health issue in passing the 2011 law.

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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