Oklahoma Supreme Court strikes down abortion restrictions as ‘unconstitutional’
OKLAHOMA CITY, December 5, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Oklahoma’s highest court has blocked two laws regulating abortions in the state. One of the laws required that abortionists show mothers an ultrasound image of their child and tell them about fetal development before they go through with the abortion. The other tightened safety restrictions on the use of abortion-inducing drugs.
In separate decisions, the court said the laws, which were passed with wide bipartisan support in the state legislature, violated the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
“The challenged measure is facially unconstitutional pursuant to Casey,” the justices wrote in each opinion. “The mandate of Casey remains binding on this Court until and unless the United States Supreme Court holds to the contrary.”
The Oklahoma court said it had no choice but to “follow the mandate of the United States Supreme Court on matters of federal constitutional law.”
Oklahoma State Attorney General Scott Pruitt, whose office appealed the lower-court decisions that originally nullified the laws, said he is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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“We disagree with the court’s decision,” Pruitt said in a statement, “particularly with the fact that the question on whether Oklahoma’s Constitution provides a right to an abortion was left unanswered.”
The ultrasound law was first blocked in March by District Judge Bryan Dixon. Dixon claimed the new requirements were unconstitutional and unenforceable because they applied only to patients, physicians and ultrasound technicians undergoing, performing or assisting with abortions, not other medical situations.
Tony Lauinger, chairman of Oklahomans for Life, said he believes the state Supreme Court has misinterpreted the U.S. Supreme Court’s Casey decision.
“The ultrasound law does not prohibit abortion,” Lauinger said. “It regulates abortion.” In Lauinger’s view, the ultrasound provision offers only informed consent for women seeking abortions, which he insists the Casey ruling permits.
The other state law struck down by the court was the Abortion-Inducing Drug Safety Act, which would have enforced FDA guidelines banning vaginal intake of the abortion drug RU-486 and limiting its safe use to within the first 49 days of a pregnancy. The law mandated that abortion doctors give a woman a health exam before dispensing RU-486 to assess how far along she is into pregnancy, and to screen for health problems which could lead to life-threatening complications.
The law was deemed necessary because National Abortion Federation guidelines encourage abortionists to prescribe RU-486 within 63 days of the last menstrual period – an extra two weeks beyond the FDA’s safety guidelines. Abortionists also commonly use the drug in an “off label” manner by administering it vaginally, which can lead to serious, even deadly infections.
The stricter safety guidelines were rejected in May by District Judge Donald Worthington, who said they violate “the fundamental rights of women to privacy and bodily integrity.”
Pruitt criticized the court’s decision to uphold Worthington’s ruling.
“There is overwhelming evidence that the off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs leads to serious infections and death for many healthy, unsuspecting women,” Pruitt said. “This is not okay.”
The decision to overturn the restrictions on abortion drugs was unanimous, with all nine justices joining in the decision. In the ultrasound law ruling, eight out of nine concurred. Justice Noma Gurich, who issued her own ruling blocking the law shortly before she was appointed to the Supreme Court, recused herself from the decision.
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