Oklahoma high court confirms abortion law unconstitutional

[JURIST] The Oklahoma Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF] that a 2011 state law restricting the use of chemical-abortions is unconstitutional, reaffirming the court's 2012 decision [JURIST report]. The law [HB 1970, text] imposes broad and stringent limitations on physicians when prescribing abortion-inducing medications to patients, and banned the prescription of "off-label" drugs known to have abortion-inducing effects, even when used to treat exotic pregnancies. The court, in answering questions requested by the US Supreme Court [official website], ruled that the law restricts the long-respected "deference physicians receive regarding treatment decisions in almost all other areas of medicine" and effectively bans all chemical-abortions, including those used for treatment for ectopic pregnancies. The law was first challenged in federal court in 2011 by the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice [advocacy website], which prompted a district court to strike down the law in 2012. The US Supreme Court will decide whether to review the case or let the decision stand.

Oklahoma has been at the center of controversy recently regarding reproductive rights [JURIST backgrounder; JURIST op-ed]. Following the Oklahoma Supreme Court's 2012 ruling, the state attorney general filed a petition [JURIST report] to the US Supreme Court. The Oklahoma law restricting the use of abortion-inducing drugs was scheduled to take effect on November 1, 2011, but was temporarily blocked [JURIST report] in October. In April 2011 Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed into law [JURIST report] a bill prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks. The law allows abortions past the 20-week mark only in certain extenuating circumstances where the mother faces death or serious injury. A doctor who performs an abortion in violation of the time limit would be subject to criminal prosecution for a felony, but the woman undergoing the procedure would not face a penalty. Last year an Oklahoma state judge extended a temporary injunction [JURIST report] blocking enforcement of HB 2780.

 

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