Supreme Court Won't Hear Abortion Rights Challenge

Good news from the Supreme Court this morning: the Justices have dismissed an Oklahoma abortion rights case (Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice) as "improvidently granted." The Oklahoma Supreme Court had struck down as unconstitutional a state law designed to limit women's access to medication abortions by limiting how doctors prescribe medications designed to terminate early pregnancies.

The state law, which was pushed by anti-choice groups, required misoprostol and methotrexate, medications used to terminate early pregnancies, to be prescribed only as directed by the FDA; any variation from that (called "off label" use) is made illegal. But in the years since these drugs were approved by the FDA, doctors through experience have determined that such "off label" uses are more effective, safe, and convenient for women. Such "off label" uses also allow for abortion later in a pregnancy than FDA-approved use does, and doctors routinely prescribe drugs in an "off label" manner as they learn what works best for their patients. The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the law, but the U.S. Supreme Court asked it to clarify the extent of the law being challenged. The state court answered last week, leading to today's decision to not review the case.

So at least for now – and probably only for now – the Roberts Court has turned aside a chance to continue its work undermining the precedents protecting women's reproductive rights. But Oklahoma is not the only state adopting this method of restricting access to abortion. For instance, a similar provision is part of the new abortion restrictions in Texas currently being litigated in Fifth Circuit. So look for the issue to appear again before the Supreme Court, perhaps in a way that the far-right anti-choice majority regards as a better case strategically to make their next assault on reproductive freedom.

PFAW Foundation