May 15, 2012 — Oklahoma District Court Judge Donald Worthington has struck down a state law (HB 1970) restricting the use of medication abortion drugs, the AP/NECN reports (AP/NECN, 5/14). The law had been scheduled to take effect on Nov. 1, but it was temporarily blocked in October.
The law would have required physicians who offer medication abortion to conduct examinations of patients, document certain medical conditions and schedule follow-up appointments. It also would have mandated that physicians follow FDA guidelines on medication abortion, rather than guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the National Abortion Federation that currently are used.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed by the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and Tulsa-based reproductive health care provider Nova Health System, the law would have prohibited vaginal administration of the drugs, restricted the time the drugs could be administered and removed a treatment option for women with ectopic pregnancies (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/20/11).
In a court order issued on Friday, Worthington wrote that the statute is "an unconstitutional law in violation of the fundamental rights of women to privacy and bodily integrity." The law's provisions were "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 women who do," the ruling stated, adding that the right to terminate a pregnancy is constitutionally protected.
Center for Reproductive Rights President Nancy Northup said the ruling sends a "message to anti-choice legislators in Oklahoma and beyond that their disingenuous tactics for restricting access to abortion and their hostility toward women's fundamental rights will not stand." The ruling affirms that the law "was never about protecting women," she said, adding, "It was about banning safe and effective methods of terminating a pregnancy and making it impossible for women to exercise the full range of their constitutionally protected rights" (Hoberock, Tulsa World, 5/15).
Diane Clay, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma attorney general, said, "The district judge in this case took the unprecedented step of finding that the Oklahoma Constitution contains a right to an abortion." She added, "The district court's decision is wrong, it is not supported by any decision from the state Supreme Court or any other Oklahoma court, and will be appealed" (Olafson, Reuters/Chicago Tribune, 5/14).