Supreme Court Snubs Oklahoma Abortion Case

11/5/13
 
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from The Wall Street Journal,
11/4/13:

State-Level Fights Continue as Texas Appeal Reaches Justices.

An Oklahoma effort to ban drug-induced abortions ended Monday, when the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the state’s appeal of a lower court decision finding the 2011 law unconstitutional.

But a separate appeal of a Texas abortion ruling landed at the Supreme Court on the same day, reflecting the continuing battle by state-level conservatives to restrict abortions to the maximum extent permitted by the high court’s precedents.

The Supreme Court has permitted regulation of the procedure so long as it doesn’t impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to end a pregnancy.

The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in New Orleans, had reinstated most of a Texas law restricting abortions, including a provision that effectively closed one-third of the state’s abortion providers by requiring physicians who perform the procedure to hold admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

Abortion-rights advocates asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a federal-district court injunction of the law that the Fifth Circuit had lifted. Justice Antonin Scalia, who oversees the Fifth Circuit, on Monday gave Texas until Nov. 12 to respond to the petition.

In the Oklahoma case, the U.S. justices had asked the state supreme court to clarify whether the statute simply regulated medication-induced abortions or amounted to an outright ban on them.

The Oklahoma court had struck down the antiabortion law in December with a terse, unsigned order.

Last week, the Oklahoma court issued an opinion explaining that the restrictions effectively outlawed the use of mifepristone and other abortion-inducing drugs, thereby violating U.S. precedents that bar states from imposing an “undue burden” on abortion rights first recognized in the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

In light of that clarification, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the state’s appeal as “improvidently granted.” The move suggested that had the justices been certain from the start that the Oklahoma law banned drug-induced abortions, they would have denied the state’s appeal at the outset.

The Supreme Court has been increasingly receptive to abortion restrictions. In 2007, the court upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. But Monday’s decision suggests the court is unwilling to revisit what it has called the “core holding” of Roe v. Wade, which found a constitutional right to abortion procedures.

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