WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court won't consider Oklahoma's appeal
seeking to reinstate its law banning medical abortions, such as those
performed with the drug RU-486.
The decision comes after
Oklahoma's Supreme Court said the law, which would restrict the use of
several abortion-inducing drugs to their labels, effectively bans all
That apparently was enough for the justices to
leave alone the lower court decision striking down the law. But similar
controversies in other states, including neighboring Texas, make it
possible another case will reach the high court eventually.
federal appeals court ruled last week that a Texas anti-abortion law
banning most medical abortions and requiring doctors who provide
abortions to get local hospital admitting privileges could take effect,
even while the state challenges a district court judge's ruling against
the hospital provision. That means many doctors in Texas are blocked
from prescribing medical abortions in the first seven weeks of
Abortion rights proponents asked the Supreme Court Monday to block
the provision requiring hospital privileges while the legal battle
continues. Justice Antonin Scalia demanded a response from the state by
The prospect of a Supreme Court case on abortion had
energized both sides in the debate. The Oklahoma case on RU-486 and two
other drugs could have been the most important abortion case since 1992,
when the justices upheld the right to abortion but approved several
state restrictions. A later decision striking down so-called
"partial-birth" abortions only affected a small number performed much
later in pregnancy.
Other state abortion laws that could reach the
high court before too long include those banning abortions after 20
weeks in Arizona and Idaho, as well as restrictions on abortion clinics
and requirements that ultrasound tests be performed first.
justices will hear one related case in January - a challenge by abortion
opponents to a Massachusetts law that creates a 35-foot buffer zone
around abortion clinics.
The stricken Oklahoma law that justices refused to consider is
similar to others in states that have sought to further restrict the
right to abortion. It allows three abortion-related drugs to be used
only in the ways their FDA-approved labels specify. Doctors, however,
routinely follow other protocols that combine drugs and enable patients
to take them at home.
In addition to the Texas law, which makes
exceptions for the life and health of the mother, a similar ban on
off-label uses for abortion-inducing drugs has been upheld in Ohio.