Abortion Law Ruled Unconstitutional in Oklahoma

by | October 11, 2017

By Kyle Schwab

An Oklahoma County judge on Friday threw out a law restricting medication abortions for the second time, again finding it unconstitutional.

"We are obviously very pleased that the judge ruled in our favor and indicated that she is going to strike down this statute," Autumn Katz, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told The Oklahoman on Friday. "Women in Oklahoma can continue to benefit from medical advances, and doctors will be able to prescribe these medications in accordance with what they think is best in their professional judgment."

The law would have required physicians to administer abortion-inducing drugs in accordance with a protocol established in 2000.

District Judge Patricia Parrish struck down House Bill 2684, finding it unconstitutional because it creates an undue burden on a woman's access to abortion. She noted that the law, if enacted, wouldn't have allowed doctors to follow an updated label protocol for administering the drugs but would have forced physicians to abide by an older label protocol.

The judge first struck down the law in August 2015, ruling that since it applied specifically to abortion-inducing drugs, it amounted to a "special law" prohibited in the state constitution. In February 2016, the Oklahoma Supreme Court reversed that judgment and sent the case back to the lower court.

A month later, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a label change, essentially updating the medication abortion regimen to reflect what had been considered "off-label" by the state's attorneys, Katz said.

"So what the state has deemed to be off-label is in fact, now, the label," Katz said.

She said the state had to "irrationally" begin arguing for what had become an off-label use of the drugs.

"By updating the label, the FDA recognized that the old protocol outlined in the 2000 label was obsolete and no longer being used by any physicians in the country," Katz said.

The judge said, "The new label throws the whole law into disarray."

Katz said the current regimen is safer, more effective and allows women to use the drugs up to 70 days of pregnancy rather than 49. Backers of the law had argued the old protocol was safer.

The law had been enjoined.

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit in 2014 on behalf of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and Reproductive Services, a nonprofit reproductive health care clinic in Tulsa.

(c)2017 The Oklahoman