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Okla. Judge Blocks Medication Abortion Restriction

Okla. Judge Blocks Medication Abortion Restriction

August 11, 2015 — An Oklahoma judge on Monday struck down a state law (HB 2684) that aimed to limit medication abortion, ruling that the law was unconstitutional because such restrictions are not applied to other medications, Reuters reports (Brandes/Herskovitz, Reuters, 8/10).

Aaron Cooper, a spokesperson for the state Attorney General's Office, said the office plans to appeal the ruling (Talley, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8/10).

Case Background

The law would have required physicians to administer medication abortion drugs according to FDA protocol and banned use of the method after 49 days of pregnancy, which goes against common medical practice. It was challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

In October 2014, Oklahoma District Court Judge Roger Stuart allowed the underlying law to take effect but granted the plaintiffs' request to block portions of the measure that would have made abortion providers liable if they did not follow the law. The Oklahoma Supreme Court in November 2014 temporarily blocked enforcement of the law, which had taken effect on Nov. 1, 2014, until it was "fully and finally litigated."

In January, the plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgement, arguing that the law illegally delegates authority to FDA by requiring providers to follow out-of-date FDA protocols when administering medication abortion drugs (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/6). CRR attorney Autumn Katz also argued that the law interfered with physicians' discretion to treat their patients and did not serve a valid state interest. Katz said physicians under the law would have had to treat women using an outdated method even though the up-to-date method is safer, more effective and less costly.

According to Guttmacher Institute, five other states have passed similar laws.

Latest Ruling

Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish in her ruling Monday said she was bound by a 2012 state Supreme Court decision. The 2012 decision affirmed a lower court ruling to strike down a 2011 law that effectively prohibited medication abortion in the state (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8/10).

Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate for Guttmacher, said, "For women in Oklahoma, this ruling means they can access abortion methods that are best for them" (Reuters, 8/10).