(Reuters) - The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a law aimed at limiting the use of abortion-inducing drugs, overturning a lower court decision that said the measure was unconstitutional because it did not apply to other medication.
Tuesday’s decision said the measure did not violate state constitutional provisions aimed at keeping laws uniform across the state, but also said it could compromise public health.
“We also must recognize that, by the States’ own evidentiary materials, more restrictions on abortions result in higher complication rates and in decreased women’s safety,” the court wrote.
The law requires that the drugs, including one known by the brand name Mifeprex, be administered under U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocols that critics say are outdated and pose dangers to women.
The state’s Republican leaders who supported the law said the restrictions protect women. Those opposed have said the FDA-recommended dosages increase risks to women of harmful side effects because they are much larger than needed.
“The off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs has resulted in catastrophic consequences for women nationwide, and I appreciate the Oklahoma Legislature’s efforts to protect the health and safety of Oklahoma women over the interests of the abortion industry,” Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Reproductive Services, a non-profit healthcare provider with a center in Tulsa, and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, said the law prohibited off-label use of abortion-inducing drugs purposefully and unconstitutionally, which limited non-surgical abortion options in the state.
When the FDA approved Mifeprex in 2000, it set up a regimen that included relatively high dosages and three visits to a physician’s office, according to a paper from the Guttmacher Institute, which backs abortion rights but whose research is used by both sides of the debate.
Soon after, groups such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America published medical standards for Mifeprex based on studies by the World Health Organization and other developed countries showing that lower dosages and fewer visits to the doctor were needed. As far back as 2001, an estimated 83 percent of U.S. providers were no longer using the FDA-approved regimen, Guttmacher said.
Ohio, Texas and North Dakota have similar laws restricting abortion-inducing drugs, according to the institute.
Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and David Gregorio
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