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Supreme Court Dismisses Okla. Medication Abortion Case; State Ruling Stands

Supreme Court Dismisses Okla. Medication Abortion Case; State Ruling Stands

November 4, 2013 — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dismissed Oklahoma's appeal to reinstate a law (HB 1970) that would have restricted medication abortion in the state, USA Today reports (Wolf, USA Today, 11/4). In its one-line order, the high court dismissed the case as "improvidently granted."

The decision finalizes a state ruling invalidating the statute (Hurley, Reuters/NBC News, 11/4).

Background on Case

The Oklahoma law requires physicians to follow FDA guidance on medication abortion, rather than guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the National Abortion Federation that are currently used. An Oklahoma trial court judge struck down the law last year, and the state Supreme Court in December issued a brief affirmation of that decision.

This June, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the law, pending clarification from the Oklahoma Supreme Court on its understanding of the statute. In their request to the Oklahoma court, the Supreme Court justices asked whether the state judges thought the law bars use of the abortion drug misoprostol, even when physicians follow FDA protocol. They also asked whether the state measure prevents physicians from using the cancer drug methotrexate to treat ectopic pregnancies.

Last week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court said the law prohibits mifepristone and methotrexate because FDA has not specifically approved either medication as an "abortion-inducing drug," as required under the state statute. The judges said that the law "effectively bans all medication abortions," adding that "[n]inety-six percent of medication abortions in the United States are now provided according to a regimen different from the one described in mifepristone's F.D.A.-approved label" (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/30).