Oklahoma Governor Signs Bill Severely Restricting Access to Medication Abortion

Enactment of law represents third time Oklahoma has tried to restrict women’s access to medication used to end a pregnancy in its earliest stages

(PRESS RELEASE) Less than a year after the courts overturned Oklahoma’s attempt to ban safe and legal medication abortion in the state, Governor Mary Fallin signed into law today restrictions on women’s access to a non-surgical method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages using medication.

House Bill 2684, which is scheduled to take effect on November 1 of this year, will deny women a newer, evidence-based regimen for medication abortion that has been proven safer, more effective, and less expensive than the outdated protocol mandated under the law.  The bill forces women seeking medication abortion in Oklahoma to take three times more medication than necessary—potentially resulting in more side effects—and bans them altogether from choosing medication abortion after 49 days of pregnancy, forcing them to undergo a surgical procedure when they otherwise would have the option of a safe abortion using medications alone. 

Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO with the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“Oklahoma politicians have yet again proven they are hell-bent on restricting women’s access to a safe and proven method of ending a pregnancy at its earliest stages, substituting their own ideologies for years of scientific research and the expertise of medical professionals worldwide.

“Courts time and again have found these restrictions unconstitutional, and yet Oklahoma politicians refuse to give up their costly crusade of choking off access to safe, legal abortion care.

“It should not take a series of court orders to convince these politicians to reevaluate their priorities and refocus their energy on making laws that truly protect women’s health, safety, and dignity.”

This is the third time in the past four years Oklahoma politicians have passed legislation restricting women’s access to medication abortion in the state.  The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a legal challenge in October 2011 against a bill that entirely banned medication abortion.  The US Supreme Court eventually refused to hear the case, allowing the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision permanently blocking the law from taking effect to stand.  The highest court in the state concluded that a requirement to follow the outdated protocol “is so completely at odds with the standard that governs the practice of medicine that it can serve no purpose other than to prevent women from obtaining abortions and to punish and discriminate against those who do.”

Women in the United States have been safely and legally using medication abortion for over a decade, with one in four women who make the decision to end a pregnancy in the first nine weeks choosing this method.  These types of restrictions ignore years of doctor’s practical experience and scientific advancement, forcing providers to prescribe the medication with an inferior, outdated, and less effective protocol.

“Physicians know better than politicians how to best treat their patients,” said Northup, “and medical decisions should be made according to their advice and expertise, not any politician’s ideological agenda.”  

Harmful and unconstitutional restrictions like HB 2684 these further underscore the need for the federal Women’s Health Protection Act (S. 1696/H.R. 3471)—a bill that would prohibit states like Oklahoma from imposing unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care providers that apply to no similar medical care, interfere with women’s personal decision making, and block access to safe and legal abortion services.