Oklahoma Supreme Court, Legislature Weigh Abortion Restrictions | KGOU
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Oklahoma Supreme Court, Legislature Weigh Abortion Restrictions

Feb 24, 2016

The Oklahoma Supreme Court says a 2014 law restricting the use of certain abortion-inducing drugs is constitutional. After Tuesday’s ruling, a lower court will now review other challenges to the measure.

The law requires Oklahoma doctors to follow the original U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol for two drugs used to terminate a pregnancy in the early stages, despite studies that have found it’s just as effective to take the drugs in smaller doses for up to two weeks later than what’s currently approved by the FDA.

Supporters say the law protects women from dangerous off-label uses of the drugs. It’s now up to a lower court to determine the law’s legitimacy “under other constitutional provisions both state and federal,” according to The Oklahoman’s Kyle Schwab:

The law has not gone into effect because of the constitutional challenges. The Supreme Court said a stay will remain in place until the challenges are fully and finally litigated.

Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish last year ruled the law unconstitutional. The Supreme Court on Tuesday reversed that judgment, ruling 6-1 the law doesn't violate provisions of the state constitution that prohibit special laws and the delegation of legislative authority.

Writing for the majority, Justice Steven Taylor said, "It is not the place of this Court to question legislative wisdom."

State Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, who authored the legislation, said he’s pleased with the decision.

“Earlier this month, the Oklahoma County District Court upheld a bill we passed that establishes reasonable standards for abortion clinics, including hospital privileges by physicians,” Grau said in a statement. “With that ruling and this latest ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, it is clear that we can and should continue to pass legislation that will protect life in Oklahoma.”

In a concurring opinion, Supreme Court Justice Douglas Combs said he agrees the law does not violate the state constitution, but expressed concern with the legislation, Schwab writes.

“Once again, those who do not practice medicine have determined to insert themselves between physicians and their patients,” the opinion states. “It is undisputed that the FDA’s final printed labeling does not restrict or control a doctor’s practice of medicine or the use of medication once it is distributed. The FDA understands the role of physicians in adhering to the best possible standard of care. In the form of HB 2684, the Oklahoma Legislature has chosen to ignore this.”

Oklahoma lawmakers advanced other abortion-related measures this week. On Tuesday the House Appropriations and Budget Committee approved a bill that authorizes publicly funded programs to instruct Oklahoma high school students that life begins at conception. Funds appropriated for this legislation would not be available for abortion counseling or sex education.

This bill would require Oklahoma public high schools to teach students grades 9-12 about “the humanity of a child in utero,” this education would include changes in the fetus as it develops throughout pregnancy.

“We've been through that, and it's not successful. It really isn't. It's more of teaching of methods, and it's condoning sexuality before marriage,” said the bill’s author, state Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton.

Opponents of the bill said it does not address some of the root causes of many abortions.

“I’m all for making sure that we reduce or eliminate the number of abortions in Oklahoma, but I’m also not ignorant enough to think that there are not socioeconomic and educational issues that cause some of these issues, but yet we don’t ever address them,” said House Minority leader Scott Inman, D-Del City.

The bill passed by a vote of 17-2 and will be heard in the full chamber.

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