OKLAHOMA CITY —
A day after an Oklahoma judge struck down a law related to abortion-inducing drugs the Edmond lawmaker who authored it defended it during a press conference.
In May 2011, Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1970, authored by Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, and Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. It required that abortion providers dispense abortion-inducing drugs in accordance with Food and Drug Administration guidelines and that physicians examine their patients before prescribing an abortion-inducing drug.
The bill also required physicians to schedule a follow-up appointment and provide the patient with the drug’s label to ensure the patient is fully aware of the risks associated with the drug.
In October 2011, the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Services, on behalf of its members, and Nova Health Systems challenged the measure via a civil rights action filed in Oklahoma County District Court.
The plaintiffs argued the law sought to elevate politicians’ ideological objections to abortion over women’s health and well-being. They argued the law imposed severe, arbitrary restrictions on the use of FDA-approved abortion-inducing medications.
The restrictions prevent doctors from providing and women from receiving sound medical treatment, violating the plaintiffs’ rights “to equal protection of the laws, privacy, bodily integrity, and freedom of speech, secured by the Oklahoma Constitution,” the plaintiffs argued.
It also violates Oklahoma’s constitutional provisions against special laws and delegation of legislative authority, the plaintiffs argued.
Last fall, a judge granted a temporary injunction, preventing the law from taking effect Nov. 1, 2011. On Friday, Oklahoma County District Judge Donald Worthington sided with the plaintiffs, ruling that the unconstitutional law impeded a woman’s fundamental rights.
Tuesday morning, Grau, Treat, Daniel McConchie, vice president of governmental affairs for Americans United For Life, and other supporters attended a press conference at the Capitol. The law was based on AUL model legislation.
The organization maintains the law offers women real protections from an unscrupulous and profit-driven abortion industry. It claims women have died when given abortion-inducing drugs under unapproved protocols championed by the industry.
“We believe that this is a war on women,” McConchie said echoing an oft-used phrase during the current presidential election cycle.
Grau, who has pointed out that the FDA regulates the use of the drug RU-486 (aka mifepristone and Mifeprex), said his primary concern is that these drugs are used properly to ensure the safety of women in Oklahoma.
Grau called the ruling “unprecedented,” and said the judge long-jumped Oklahoma’s right, and a duty, to regulate the use of drugs and medicine within its borders. He compared the issue to the debate surrounding regulation and access to the non-prescription drug pseudoephedrine, a drug used to relieve nasal congestion caused by colds that is also an ingredient used to make meth.
“The judge essentially found in the state constitution a fundamental right that does not exist,” Grau said.
Oklahoma is allowed to license attorneys, insurance agents and physicians, Grau said. The judge found the state constitution provides a fundamental right to an abortion, something that has never been determined before, Grau said. He said the bill is about protecting and saving lives and he believes the ruling will be overturned.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt plans to appeal the decision.
In September 2000, the FDA approved the use of mifepristone — in combination with a second drug, misoprostol (Cytotec) — as an alternative to surgical abortion for terminating pregnancies within 49 days of the start of a woman’s menstrual period.
During the ensuing decade, use of early medication abortion expanded substantially, with a growing number of providers offering the service, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
About 1.52 million women had used the drug in the United States through the end of 2011, according to the FDA. Of those, 14 women died, mostly due to sepsis (a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection). Additionally, 612 women were hospitalized excluding deaths, 58 experienced ectopic pregnancies (a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb), 339 experienced blood loss requiring transfusions and 256 contracted infections, 48 of which were severe.
The FDA noted the events cannot with certainty be casually attributed to mifepristone due to information gaps. Reports of fatal sepsis in women undergoing medical abortion are very rare (about 1 in 100,000), according to the agency.
In 2008, 59 percent of abortion providers (1,066 facilities) provided one or more medication abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute. At least 9 percent of providers offer only early medication abortion services.
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