WASHINGTON — In a surprise victory for defenders of abortion rights, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed Oklahoma's appeal of a state law that would have effectively prevented doctors from prescribing two drugs commonly used to induce abortions in the first nine weeks of a pregnancy.
The court's one-line order suggests most of the justices are not willing to even consider a state law that goes that far.
In June, the high court had tentatively agreed to hear Oklahoma's defense of the 2011 law, which restricted how doctors could prescribe the abortion-inducing drugs. The state said it wanted doctors to follow the exact protocols set by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The U.S. Supreme Court asked the state judges to explain the law and the basis for their ruling.
Last week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court said the law, as written, "effectively bans all medication abortions," because the second drug that is now routinely prescribed—misopristol—had not been formally approved for that use by the FDA. In addition, doctors have found that using lower dosages than currently approved by the FDA is more effective.
The justices could have scheduled the Oklahoma case for argument to decide how far states can go in regulating abortion drugs. Instead, they issued an order saying the appeal petition is "dismissed as improvidently granted."
Monday's action leaves unresolved the larger and growing debate over a string of new state laws that seek to restrict and regulate abortion. They include laws in Texas and Ohio.
In a related development, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union asked the Supreme Court to intervene and to block enforcement of the new Texas law which, they say, would force many abortion clinics to close their doors.