Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Down Restrictions on Medication Abortion
4.30.19—(PRESS RELEASE attributable to the Center for Reproductive Rights) Today, the Oklahoma Supreme Court permanently blocked a 2014 Oklahoma measure (H.B. 2684) that restricts a woman’s access to medication abortion—a non-surgical method of ending an early pregnancy and the chosen method for more than 50% of all Oklahoma women.
“Today’s decision is a critical victory for Oklahoma women and their doctors,” said Autumn Katz, Senior Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Women deserve access to safe medication abortion regardless of what state they live in. This law would have required women to follow a decades-old practice that is no longer the standard of medical care. Today’s ruling elevates science over politics and ensures that Oklahomans who decide to end a pregnancy can continue to get the care they need.”
As the Court concluded, “H.B. 2684 has the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s choice and imposes an undue burden on the woman’s right. Under United States Supreme Court precedent, [this law] is unconstitutional and therefore void and of no effect.”
In September 2014, the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged Oklahoma’s restrictions on medication abortion signed into law by former Governor Mary Fallin—restrictions that would force physicians to treat women seeking medication abortion using an obsolete regimen that has been rejected by doctors, medical experts, leading professional organizations, and the FDA. As the Court noted, this law would have made Oklahoma the only state in the nation to enforce such an archaic protocol, increasing the risk of complications, banning all medication abortions after 49 days of pregnancy, and forcing women to undergo a surgical procedure when they otherwise would have the option of a safe abortion using medications alone.
"It’s crucial that patients receive truthful, accurate, evidence-based information about their health care,” said Danielle Williams, Co-Board President of Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice (OCRJ). “This restriction was sold as a measure to protect women’s health, but in reality it would have forced doctors to administer triple the necessary dose of medication abortion drugs. It is a stark reminder that many anti-abortion policies come at the direct expense of women’s healthcare, so we are very glad the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled against this restriction."
In November of 2017, a state district court permanently blocked the law. The State appealed that decision to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which today upheld that decision. The state Supreme Court failed to permanently block the law in 2016. Subsequently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvedan updated label for mifepristone (known as Mifeprex®), in order to better reflect current medical practice and years of scientific evidence.
Oklahoma is already one of the most restrictive states in the country in terms of abortion access. Since 2011, Oklahoma politicians have passed over 20 bills restricting access to abortion and other reproductive health care. This year alone, a dozen anti-abortion bills have been introduced in the state. Just last week, Oklahoma enacted a bill that would require abortion clinics to post signage that falsely claims it may be possible to “reverse” a medication abortion. The Oklahoma legislature is also currently considering SB 195, a constitutional amendment stating that the Oklahoma constitution does not protect the right to abortion.
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed this case in September 2014 with Blake Patton of Walding & Patton as co-counsel, on behalf of OCRJ—a non-profit membership organization dedicated to ensuring the availability of the full range of reproductive health care services to women throughout the state—and Reproductive Services (now Tulsa Women’s Clinic).
The Court’s decision can be found here.