Judge Blocks Oklahoma Medication Abortion Restriction—Again

A state court judge ruled the measure violates the Oklahoma Constitution.

A state court judge ruled the measure violates the Oklahoma Constitution. White pills via Shutterstock

Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia G. Parrish on Monday ruled a state law restricting medication abortions is unconstitutional.

The ruling came in a lawsuit challenging HB 2684, which was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in April 2014 and was set to take effect November 1. The law prohibits the off-label use of the drug RU-486 (or mifepristone) and instead requires physicians to administer medication abortion drugs according to an outdated and inferior regimen, the plaintiffs allege. Attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the restrictions in September 2014. In October a state court judge failed to block the measure from taking effect, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court stepped in and did so while the legal challenge continued.

The law also bans all medication abortions after 49 days of pregnancy, forcing patients to undergo a surgical procedure when they otherwise would have the option of a safe abortion using medications alone.

Judge Parrish issued her ruling immediately following a hearing Monday morning, finding the restrictions clearly violate the state constitution’s prohibition against special laws. That constitutional provision forbids the legislature from enacting a special law where a general law could be enacted. Because Judge Parrish announced her ruling during the hearing, a written order explaining her decision is not yet available.

This is the third time in the last four years that anti-choice Oklahoma lawmakers have passed legislation restricting patient’s access to medication abortion in the state. One measure would have effectively banned the method in 2011. Attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged that measure in October 2011. The Oklahoma Supreme Court permanently blocked the measure and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, allowing the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision to stand.

Oklahoma lawmakers passed HB 2684 in response to that legal defeat. Monday’s ruling permanently blocks the measure from taking effect.

“For years, Oklahoma politicians have made it their mission to stand between women and safe, legal abortion care, and the courts have stepped in time and time again to stop them, “ said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement following the hearing.

“Today’s ruling affirms that Oklahoma politicians cannot single out women for discrimination simply because they don’t agree with their health care decisions.”