Oklahoma lawmakers aren’t deterred when harsh abortion restrictions get overturned in court for violating the bounds of Roe v. Wade. They simply try again.
For the third time, the state has approved a measure that will severely restrict women’s access to the abortion pill, a non-surgical method of ending an early pregnancy. The move comes less than a year after the courts prevented Oklahoma from enforcing a similar law that was passed in 2011.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, the group that has repeatedly litigated against Oklahoma’s recent attempts to undermine reproductive rights, isn’t mincing words about how frustrating it is to keep fighting the same battles.
“Oklahoma politicians have yet again proven they are hell-bent on restricting women’s access to a safe and proven method of ending a pregnancy at its earliest stages,” Nancy Northrup, the group’s president, said in a statement. “Courts time and again have found these restrictions unconstitutional, and yet Oklahoma politicians refuse to give up their costly crusade of choking off access to safe, legal abortion care.”
Essentially, this type of legislation requires doctors to adhere to the FDA’s extremely outdated protocol for administering the medication used to induce an abortion. Even though women have been safely terminating pregnancies with a lower dosage of drugs for over a decade, these state laws force them to take an unnecessarily high dose. That ultimately makes the procedure more expensive, necessitates additional trips to a clinic, and prevents doctors from using their own judgment to follow the best medical practice available.
Last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that these abortion pill requirements are unconstitutional, noting that the regulation “restricts the long-respected medical discretion of physicians.” The court also determined that the vague language in the state law amounted to a total ban on medication abortion.
So now, the new law is more specific about the fact that it’s not intended to ban the abortion pill entirely, and state lawmakers hope that will help it to withstand a court challenge. But the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is currently challenging a similar law in Arizona, says the new law will still compromise doctors’ ability to administer the abortion pill — something that could force some women to have a surgical procedure even when they would have preferred a medication-induced abortion.
“Physicians know better than politicians how to best treat their patients,” Northup noted, “and medical decisions should be made according to their advice and expertise, not any politician’s ideological agenda.”
Nonetheless, this is a popular anti-choice strategy. Bolstered by Americans United for Life, a right-wing group that writes draft legislation for abortion restrictions, four other states have also attempted to require doctors to adhere to outdated regulations for administering the abortion pill. And 14 states in total have imposed some type of medically unnecessary restriction on this type of abortion service.
Oklahoma specifically has already enacted some of the harshest abortion restrictions in the nation. In addition to undermining women’s access to medication-induced abortion, lawmakers are also attempting to impose tighter regulations on abortion clinics that may force some of them to close.