Supreme Court lets stand an Oklahoma ruling that a state abortion law is unconstitutional

November 12, 2013

The Supreme Court decided Tuesday not to review a ruling by Oklahoma’s highest court that requiring women to undergo a narrated ultrasound exam before obtaining an abortion is unconstitutional.

The decision marks the second time this month that the nation’s highest court has declined to take up a challenge to the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion. On Nov. 4, the court opted not to review a decision by the state’s high court that a major portion of Oklahoma’s ­restrictive abortion law is unconstitutional because it effectively bans all drug-induced abortions.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a legal challenge on behalf of three Oklahoma plaintiffs — a nonprofit advocacy group, an abortion doctor and a reproductive health-care facility — in April 2010 to block the ultrasound law, which would have forced every woman seeking an abortion in the state to undergo an ultrasound, have the image placed in front of her and listen to a state-mandated script.

A district court judge granted a temporary restraining order against the law in May 2010 and a permanent injunction in March 2012. The Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling in December.

Nancy Northup, president and chief executive of the Center for Reproductive Rights, welcomed Tuesday’s decision.

“A woman’s personal, private medical decisions should be made in consultation with the health-care professionals she trusts, without interference by politicians who presume to know better,” Northup said in a statement. “Today the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand another strong decision by the Oklahoma courts protecting a woman’s constitutional right to make her own decisions about whether to continue a pregnancy from the ­intrusion of politicians opposed to her rights and indifferent to her health.”

Many other states have passed legislation requiring ultrasounds before an abortion can be performed, but not all of the laws are the same. For example, while some efforts have pushed for transvaginal ultrasounds, most require less-invasive external ­ultrasounds. Most of the laws don’t require the woman to view the image or the doctor to describe it, as the Oklahoma law did.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, laws similar to the Oklahoma ultrasound law currently exist in Louisiana, Texas and Wisconsin.

Aaron Blake contributed to this report.

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