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Okla. Supreme Court Rejects Ultrasound, Medication Abortion Laws

Okla. Supreme Court Rejects Ultrasound, Medication Abortion Laws

December 5, 2012 — The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld rulings rejecting two state laws that required women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound image and restrict the use of medication abortion drugs, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

The ultrasound law (HB 2780), passed in 2010, requires doctors to perform an ultrasound and provide a detailed description of the fetus before a woman may receive an abortion. County District Judge Bryan Dixon in March ruled that the law is unconstitutional because it only applied to abortion and not other medical procedures.

The medication abortion law (HB 1970), which was approved in 2011, requires physicians who offer the drugs to conduct examinations of patients, document certain medical conditions and schedule follow-up appointments (Talley, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/4). It also mandates 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 (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/15). District Judge Donald Worthington struck down the law in May, ruling that it violates women's fundamental rights to "privacy and bodily integrity."

Tuesday's Rulings 

In both cases, the state Supreme Court ruled that the lower courts were correct to block the laws. All nine justices joined the opinion on the medication abortion law, while one justice recused herself from the ultrasound ruling because she was involved in an earlier decision on the case. All other justices concurred on the opinion (Talley, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/4).

The court said that both statutes violate the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which blocked legislation that imposes barriers to women seeking abortion care prior to viability (Gullo, Bloomberg Businessweek, 12/4).

"Because the United States Supreme Court has previously determined the dispositive issue presented in this manner, this court is not free to impose its own view of the law," the Oklahoma court stated, adding that federal law "is the supreme law of the land" and supersedes state policies.

Reaction

Michelle Mohaved -- an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the legal challenges against both measures -- said the rulings are "a resounding rejection of the Oklahoma Legislature's attempt to restrict women's constitutional rights."

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of CRR, added that the decisions affirm that "a woman's right to a full range of reproductive health care is fundamental and constitutionally protected."

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) -- whose office appealed the lower-court rulings that invalidated the laws -- expressed disappointment at the decision and indicated that the state may consider an appeal (McNutt, The Oklahoman, 12/4).