(REVISED 7.20.2018) Oklahoma passed a law, which was to take effect November 1, 2014, requiring physicians providing medication abortions to use an obsolete method that does not meet the current standard of care and is less safe and more burdensome for women than the current practice.
Medication abortion (a combination of the medications mifepristone and misoprostol) is a safe and effective alternative to surgical abortion that can be used by women who are in the first 9 to 10 weeks of pregnancy. Women in the U.S. have been safely undergoing medication abortions since 2000, when the FDA first approved mifepristone. In fact, one out of four women in the U.S. early enough in pregnancy to use medication as an alternative to surgical abortion chooses this method. Since the approval of mifepristone, newer, evidence-based regimens have been developed that make ,medication abortion safer, more effective, and less expensive. By requiring physicians to follow an obsolete protocol, state politicians deny women the advantages of years of physicians’ practical experience and scientific research. This not only forces outmoded health care on women, but also intrudes into the doctor-patient relationship without medical justification to deprive women of safe and legal abortion care. Laws like this one are opposed by the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.Mandating that physicians providing medication abortion adhere to an obsolete method forces a woman to take three times more medication than the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends, make additional unnecessary visits to the clinic, and face increased risk.
Plaintiff(s): Nova Health Systems, d/b/a/ Reproductive Services, Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice
Center Attorney(s): Autumn Katz
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Walding &, Patton, Martha Hardwick
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit in state court challenging the restriction on behalf of Reproductive Services, a non-profit organization providing high-quality and affordable health care services to women in underserved communities, its staff and patients, and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting reproductive justice and ensuring the full range of reproductive healthcare services are available to Oklahoma women, and its members, who include women of reproductive age.
The Center sought a temporary injunction to block the law from going into effect, which the trial court denied, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court subsequently granted.
On August 10, 2015, an Oklahoma state judge found that the restriction violated the Oklahoma state constitution. The State filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court on September 23. On February 23, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiffs on the two claims the law had been challenged on, but remanded the case back to the district court for a determination of the law's validity under other constitutional provisions. The State will continue to be barred from enforcing the law while the case proceeds.
Back at the trial court, following a hearing, the district court ruled that the law was unconstitutional on October 6, 2017. The State then filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court. On June 5, 2018, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued an order staying the case until there is a final outcome in a different lawsuit, a challenge to an Arkansas medication abortion restriction that was filed in federal court.