Early Monday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the case of Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. At issue in Cline was an Oklahoma law which effectively bans a woman’s ability to terminate an early pregnancy through the use of medication abortion. Medication abortion is both safe and legal – and has been since its FDA approval over a decade ago. For a number of women, it is also the preferred method of abortion. One in four women who have an early abortion decides on this method. Not only is medication abortion safe and legal, it is also protects women’s privacy by allowing them to complete the abortion in the comfort of their own homes rather than in a medical office.
Because the scope of the law was somewhat ambiguous, there was a question as to whether or not the statute truly bans medication abortion. Last December, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a decision on the law. Without addressing the law’s scope, the Oklahoma Supreme Court said that the law was an impermissible restriction on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion and therefore violated the U.S. Constitution. In an effort to keep up the fight, Oklahoma appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court said it would consider taking the case, but first wanted some clarification from the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court wanted to know if the law banned medication abortion. Just last week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court responded that it did. In its much anticipated decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court wrote that not only did the law create a ban, but that this ban was “so completely at odds with the standard that governs the practice of medicine that it can serve no purpose other than to prevent women from obtaining abortions and to punish and discriminate against those who do.” The law would have the effect of “restrict[ing] the long-respected medical discretion of physicians” – taking the ability to make medical decisions away from the woman and her doctor and placing it in the hands of Oklahoma legislators.
In response to these answers, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would no longer take the case. So what does this all mean? The decision of the Oklahoma Supreme Court stands and the law will not take effect. A true victory for Oklahoma’s women and families, the decision protects a woman’s ability to make the medical decision that is right for her – without interference from anti-choice politicians. Thankfully, Oklahoma women can now continue to have safe and legal access to medication abortion care and other states will hopefully take the hint that unconstitutional attacks on women’s health are not be tolerated.