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Oklahoma Takes Abortion Drug to High Court

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) - Oklahoma's attorney general asked the state supreme court to uphold a ban on off-label uses for abortion drugs, claiming it protects women.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a brief Wednesday seeking to uphold House Bill 2684, which requires abortion clinics to prescribe abortion-inducing drugs for uses approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Pruitt claims abortion providers continue to use off-label methods for mifepristone and misoprostol to "save time, money and effort" in spite of FDA warnings about such uses.

"I am hopeful the Oklahoma Supreme Court will choose to side with the health and safety of Oklahoma women over the interests of the abortion industry," Pruitt said in a statement Thursday. "The off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs has resulted in at least eight deaths nationwide and poses a significant threat to Oklahoma women."

Pruitt's filing comes in a case the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and Tulsa Nova Health Services filed in September 2014 against the state, claiming the law unconstitutionally denies due process and equal protection to women seeking medication-based abortion.

State District Judge Roger H. Stuart declined to block the law from taking effect one month later, but suspended sections that subject abortion providers to legal liability.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court soon after granted a temporary injunction stopping enforcement of the law while its constitutionality is litigated in the lower courts.

Pruitt's brief concedes that the FDA lacks statutory authority to regulate medicine and ensure the safe use of abortion drugs, but says the Oklahoma Legislature has that authority.

He says H.B. 2684 was passed to legislatively overrule the courts' interpretation of an earlier law - House Bill 1970 - that sought to ban all medication abortions and clarify that the state is not banning all medication abortions.

"Thus, H.B. 2684 re-enacted the prohibition of the off-label use of abortion drugs that has led to countless infections and numerous deaths, while still ensuring that those drugs may be prescribed according to regimens that have been approved by the FDA, such as the regimen on the mifepristone label," Pruitt wrote in the 38-page brief.

Pruitt said 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," the brief states.

Federal appeals courts in Texas and Ohio have upheld laws similar to H.B. 2684, Pruitt said.

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