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Judge Refuses To Block Okla. Medication Abortion Restrictions

October 23, 2014 — An Oklahoma County District Court judge on Wednesday refused to block a state law (HB 2684) that restricts medication abortion from taking effect Nov. 1, but he did grant a temporary injunction against the measure's enforcement mechanism for physicians, the Oklahoman reports (Clay, Oklahoman, 10/22).

Background

The law requires physicians to administer medication abortion drugs according to FDA protocol and ban the method after 49 days of pregnancy, which goes against common medical practice.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit against the law in Oklahoma County District Court on behalf of Nova Health Systems and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. In their brief, the plaintiffs argued that the law is "an unconstitutional intrusion on women's reproductive rights that will harm women's health and well-being."

CRR in a statement added that requiring clinics to adhere to FDA protocol would prevent clinics from administering the drugs in ways that make medication abortion safer, faster and less costly, with fewer complications (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/1).

Ruling Details

Oklahoma County District Court Judge Roger Stuart allowed the underlying law to take effect. However, he granted the plaintiffs' request to halt portions of the measure that would have made abortion providers liable if they did not follow the law.

Stuart said, "It seems to me the impact of this on physicians and their patients is pretty heavy" (Murphy, AP/Washington Times, 10/22). He added that physicians should not be left in legal uncertainty while court challenges against the law continue to go forward. According to the Oklahoman, Stuart's ruling only pertained to the temporary injunction request, and he could still rule against the law after hearing more evidence in the case (Oklahoman, 10/22).

Reaction

CRR attorney Autumn Katz said that the plaintiffs might appeal the decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. She said, "We still sort of have to digest what the court has said here and consider all the options we have."

Dana Stone, an Oklahoma City-based ob-gyn, said the ruling likely would deter most abortion providers from administering medication abortions. "I can't imagine [abortion providers] are going to go against Oklahoma law and take the risks that go along with that," Stone said, adding, "They'd be requiring women to use an outdated [FDA] protocol with more side effects."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for state Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) called the ruling a "victory for the health of Oklahomans" (AP/Washington Times, 10/22).