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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Okla. Supreme Court OKs Abortion Restrictions

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) - The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a state law that bans off-label use of abortion drugs, but acknowledged that restrictions on abortions harm women's health.

In a 6-1 ruling, the nine-member court reversed a trial court ruling that House Bill 2684 violates the Oklahoma Constitution. Chief Justice Tom Colbert and Justice Joseph Watt did not vote.

"We also must recognize that, by the states' own evidentiary materials, more restrictions on abortions result in higher complication rates and in decreased women's safety," the 23-page opinion states. "Because H.B. 2684 is the only effective Oklahoma legislation restricting abortion at this time, we need not address the impact of future abortion-related restrictions on H.B. 2684's constitutionality."

The trial court upheld the law, but suspended portions that subjected abortion providers to legal liability

The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and Tulsa Nova Health Services sued the state in September 2014, claiming the law denies due process and equal protection to women seeking medication-based abortion.

They said the law illegally delegates authority to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by requiring physicians who provide mifepristone and misoprostol for abortions to comply with out-of-date FDA protocols.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt appealed the trial court ruling in November, saying H.B. 2684 is not an unconstitutional special law nor does it violate equal protection because it regulates all similarly situated drugs in the same manner.

"Even if H.B. 2684 is a special law, it is 'reasonably and substantially' related to the protection to the protection of material health, and is thus permissible," his brief stated.

The high court agreed, finding the law does not illegally delegate to the FDA because it restricts the use of only mifeprex, misoprostol and methotrexate when they are used to induce abortions.

"In doing so, it does not allow the FDA any authority," the opinion states. "Simply, H.B. 2684 is not unconstitutional as an improper delegation of legislative authority."

The high court agreed with the plaintiffs that H.B. 2684 is a special law, but said it is permissible "as the legislative aims are reasonably and substantially related to the class H.B. 2684 seeks to protect."

Pruitt said he was "pleased" with the ruling.

"The off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs has resulted in catastrophic consequences for women nationwide, and I appreciate the Oklahoma Legislature's efforts to protect the health and safety of Oklahoma women over the interests of the abortion industry," he said in a statement.

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