Oklahoma Law Limiting Abortion-Drug Access Blocked by Judge

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An Oklahoma law limiting access to drug-induced abortions was halted by a state judge as Republican-backed restrictions in other states remain blocked or bogged down in court.

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court last year temporarily barred enforcement of two state laws curbing women’s access to abortion. Both laws were signed into law in 2014 by Republican Governor Mary Fallin. The one blocked Monday by Judge Patricia G. Parrish in Oklahoma City would have prohibited non-surgical procedures in which drugs are used to induce an abortion.

Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt disagrees with the court’s analysis and will appeal the ruling, said spokesman Aaron Cooper in an e-mailed statement. He said Oklahoma’s legislature was “within its constitutional authority to take steps to prevent off-label uses of abortion drugs in order to protect the health and safety of Oklahoma women.”

The law blocked by Parrish would have banned off-label uses of abortion-inducing drugs by requiring doctors to administer them only when they followed U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations, according to Cooper. Normally, doctors are allowed to prescribe drugs for uses that haven’t been approved by the FDA.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Texas from enforcing a law that abortion-rights advocates said would have closed 10 of the state’s 19 clinics. That state’s restrictions will be on hold while the Supreme Court decides whether to rule on the state’s requirement for clinics to meet hospital-like surgical standards and for doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

Similar hospital-affiliation laws have been blocked in Wisconsin, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Those and other statutes limiting when and how abortion-inducing drugs can be used are among more than 200 measures passed by Republican-controlled legislatures since 2011.

A Florida law requiring women to wait 24 hours after a doctor visit to get an abortion was put on hold by a state judge there in July.

Oklahoma Rulings

Oklahoma’s top court last year unanimously blocked the state’s requirement for abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, as well as the restrictions on abortion-inducing drugs. The judges halted enforcement of them until judges could decide whether they were constitutional.

On Monday Parrish ruled the restrictions on abortion drugs violate state statutes barring the Legislature from enacting a “special law” substituting for a “general law,” according to an e-mailed statement by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The decision couldn’t be immediately confirmed in court records.

The ruling “ensures women in Oklahoma will continue to have access to a method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages using medication that has been proven safe,” the center said.

The cases are Burns v. Cline, 113342, and Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice v. Cline, 113355, Oklahoma Supreme Court (Oklahoma City).