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Oklahoma Supreme Court Sets Up U.S. Supreme Court Abortion Challenge

U.S. Supreme Court justices asked the Oklahoma high court to interpret the scope of the state's law banning the use of abortion-inducing drugs. Their answer, that the law "effectively bans all medication abortions," means a Supreme Court challenge on the ban could now proceed.

Posted on October 29, 2013, at 2:49 p.m. ET

Mike Stone / Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Oklahoma Supreme Court announced today that an Oklahoma law restricting the use of drug-induced abortions "effectively bans all medication abortions," setting up a potential U.S. Supreme Court challenge over the ban in coming months.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June accepted the appeal of an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling striking down the Oklahoma law as unconstitutional, but, in doing so, it asked the state's high court to explain in more detail what the scope of the state's law is.

The Oklahoma court on Tuesday responded that the law is expansive, writing, "In contrast to the deference physicians receive regarding treatment decisions in almost all other areas of medicine, H.B. 1970 requires a physician to provide or prescribe mifepristone, misoprostol, and methotrexate according only to their respective FDA-approved drug labels." Examining the impact of that rule, the court concluded, means that "H.B. 1970 effectively bans all medication abortions."

The U.S. Supreme Court justices, having taken the appeal of the case, now will have to decide how to proceed with the case. Because the certified question was sent to the Oklahoma Supreme Court immediately upon accepting the appeal, no briefing on the merits of the case has been set.

The justices could set a briefing schedule to proceed on the merits of the Supreme Court case, they could alter the "question presented" at the U.S. Supreme Court — the question the justices are answering in hearing the case — in light of the Oklahoma Supreme Court's answer to the certified question and proceed accordingly; or they could dismiss the appeal in a process known as a DIG, or "dismissed as improvidently granted." Such a dismissal would leave in effect the initial Oklahoma Supreme Court decision striking down the law as unconstitutional.

Key portions of Tuesday's Oklahoma Supreme Court opinion:

Read the full opinion:

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