Nation’s Highest Court Dismisses Case Concerning Oklahoma’s Unconstitutional Medication Abortion Ban

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Law banning all medication abortion and use of medication to treat ectopic pregnancies remains permanently blocked
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(PRESS RELEASE) Following a recent ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court clarifying the sweeping nature of the state’s ban on the use of medication to terminate pregnancies and reaffirming the unconstitutionality of that law, today the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the state’s appeal in this case—bringing an end to a long legal battle and ensuring women in Oklahoma have access to medication abortions and the non-surgical treatment of ectopic pregnancies.

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

“The Supreme Court has let stand a strong decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court that recognized this law for what it is: an outright ban on a safe method of ending a pregnancy in its earliest stages, and an unconstitutional attack on women’s health and rights.

“Politicians have been pushing for these restrictions nationwide under the thin pretext of protecting women’s health, but their real agenda is to deny women their right to end a pregnancy safely, early, and in consultation with their doctors.

“This should send a strong message to politicians in Oklahoma and across the U.S. that women’s constitutional rights are not up for debate and cannot be legislated away.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the legal challenge in October 2011 to block a state law that would have prohibited safe, effective, and medically-proven use of medications to terminate a woman’s pregnancy.

The law was permanently struck down by a district court judge in May 2012, with the Oklahoma Supreme Court upholding the lower court’s ruling in December 2012. State officials petitioned the U.S Supreme Court, which agreed to review the case but asked that the Oklahoma Supreme Court first give a definitive ruling about the scope of the law.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s response, issued on October 29, made clear that the law is a complete ban on medication abortion and a ban on the most commonly used treatment for ectopic pregnancies: “H.B. 1970 effectively bans all medication abortions.”

Women in the United States have been safely and legally using medication abortion for over a decade. In fact, one in four women who make the decision to end a pregnancy in the first nine weeks chooses this method. Studies show medication abortion is a safe and effective alternative to surgical abortion, as a woman is treated by medical professionals to whom she has access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Furthermore, the most commonly used treatment for an ectopic pregnancy would have been banned by this law, immediately endangering women’s health and future fertility.

The Center filed the lawsuit, Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice et al., v. Terry Cline, et al., on behalf of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, a non-profit membership organization dedicated to ensuring the availability of the full range of reproductive health care services to women throughout the state, and Nova Health Systems, a non-profit reproductive health care facility located in Tulsa.

Michelle Movahed, staff attorney at the Center, represents the plaintiffs in the case along with co-counsel attorneys Anne Zachritz in Oklahoma City, OK, Martha Hardwick in Pauls Valley, OK, and E. Joshua Rosenkranz and Eric A. Shumsky of Orrick, Herrington &, Sutcliffe LLP in New York and Washington, D.C.