Groundbreaking Victory in Oklahoma: Medication Abortion Protected

Today, a court delivered another stinging rebuke to the Oklahoma legislature, striking down the government’s latest attempt to choke off women’s access to reproductive health services—an arbitrary and severe restriction on medication abortion.

Judge Donald Worthington ruled that the law was “so completely at odds” with standard medical practice that it “can serve no purpose other than to prevent women from obtaining abortions and to punish and discriminate against those women who do.”

And in no uncertain terms, the judge recognized that the Oklahoma Constitution protects a woman’s fundamental right to an abortion. This is a first for Oklahoma. And it sends a strong warning to a state that has served as a laboratory for extreme abortion restrictions over the years. 

The Center challenged the law, which would have banned the use of medication to treat women with ectopic pregnancy as well as restricting treatment options for women seeking abortion last fall, arguing that it was a clear attack on women’s health and basic rights.

Medication abortion is a simple, safe and highly effective procedure that allows a woman to choose to end a pregnancy in a private, noninvasive way in consultation with her doctor. Scientific evidence supports a regimen that  involves two steps. When a woman in the first nine weeks of pregnancy goes to a reproductive health facility, she takes one tablet of a drug called mifepristone. This blocks a hormone called progesterone, which is responsible for sustaining a pregnancy.

Sometimes a woman’s uterus empties without any further action, but more often women take a drug called misoprostol several hours after the mifepristone to trigger that process.

In the best of situations, this happens when a woman is comfortable, in the privacy of her home, and being supported by a friend or loved one.

The law would have prevented doctors from using their best medical judgment to treat women seeking pregnancy terminations—ultimately, depriving women of the full range of scientifically proven treatments available.

Today’s victory in Oklahoma is the third in three months. Last month, the Center defeated the state’s attempt to push a so-called “personhood” ballot initiative that would have given fertilized eggs the full rights of a person. And in March, we won a huge case that overturned an Oklahoma law requiring women seeking abortion to undergo an ultrasound, see the image, and suffer through a state-authored script read by the doctor.

It is tremendous that the court has similarly rejected this extreme and misguided attempt to dramatically restrict the care available to women seeking treatment for ectopic pregnancy and women seeking abortions in Oklahoma. The medical advances that made medication abortion widely available have made a huge difference for more than one million American women. We fight these laws because all women deserve a reproductive health service that is compassionate, private, and makes total sense.

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