U.S. Supreme Court Won't Consider Oklahoma's Abortion Appeal

November 5, 2013

The legal push in some Republican-controlled states to restrict abortion rights suffered a setback Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Oklahoma's appeal seeking to reinstate a law that effectively banned the use of abortion-inducing drugs.

The court's decision delivered a surprise victory for abortion rights groups and was seen as a sign that while conservative justices may be open to giving states new powers to restrict abortion, they are not ready to impose sweeping new limits that would significantly interfere with women's constitutionally protected rights.

It was only Round One in a new Supreme Court term that could see at least two other key cases on abortion rights, including a Texas law that also restricts the use of abortion-inducing drugs and requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The court on Monday took up an emergency appeal related to that law, which opponents say will force a third of Texas' abortion clinics to stop offering the procedure.

The other key case involves Arizona, which is appealing the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' injunction against a law that limits abortions to within 20 weeks of pregnancy, instead of the 24 weeks commonly accepted for a viable fetus under Roe vs. Wade.

Since 2010, a dozen states have passed new laws that would restrict abortion without banning it. They are designed to test whether today's more conservative court, and particularly Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, are ready to pull back from Roe vs. Wade and the right to legal abortion.

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