The law restricts the use of mifepristone to the first seven weeks of pregnancy, in accordance with FDA guidelines established in 1999. Subsequent clinical studies have found that the drug is safe to use for at least two additional weeks.
Planned Parenthood challenged the law on several grounds, including that criminalizing use of the drug after seven weeks interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and is medically unnecessary. The group also argued that the law essentially forces a woman to have a surgical abortion when the non-surgical option is a better one. They also argued that the law places an unconstitutional undue burden on a woman's right to an abortion (Horn, Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/2).
Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott ruled against Planned Parenthood and said the law did not constitute an undue burden (AP/Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/2).
Latest Ruling, Outstanding Issue
A three-judge panel for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati agreed with Dlott, ruling that the law does not create an unconstitutional burden. Judge Karen Nelson Moore dissented, noting that because 17.7% of abortions in Ohio are non-surgical, the law could pose barriers to women who prefer that method.
The ruling addresses many of the legal issues with the law, but it is not the final decision in the case, according to the Enquirer. Dlott still must determine whether the law is constitutional despite the fact that it does not include a health exception. No date has been set for that trial.
Additionally, Planned Parenthood could appeal Tuesday's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Gary Dougherty, legislative director for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, said the ruling "puts ideology over science, and bans a safe method of abortion early in pregnancy."
Meanwhile, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) praised the ruling and said his office would continue defending the law in court (Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/2).