Oklahoma’s restriction against the Abortion Pill RU-486 goes to the Supreme Court

Reblogged from The Secular Jurist:

Photo by Flickr user peacearena

(Photo by Flickr user peacearena)

National Review Online is downplaying the seriousness of an Oklahoma law currently before the Supreme Court that forces doctors to ignore safe and accepted medical practice when prescribing the drug RU-486 for medication abortions.

In response to a New York Times blog by legal expert Linda Greenhouse highlighting Oklahoma’s appeal of a state supreme court decision that held its new restrictions on the use of RU-486 blatantly violated reproductive rights precedent, the NRO accused Greenhouse of  ”put[ting Supreme Court Justice Anthony] Kennedy on notice of how he will be treated by the liberal media if he doesn’t toe their line in this term’s controversial cases.”

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But in discussing the Supreme Court’s decision to review Cline, NRO fails to mention that in order to “adopt the determination of the FDA,” doctors will have to follow guidelines that most consider to be woefully outdated.

When RU-486 was first approved in 2000, the FDA initially recommended that doctors prescribe 600 milligrams of the drug. Research over the last 13 years, however, has shown that just 200 milligrams of the drug is safe and effective. NRO ignored Greenhouse’s observation that “[t]he 200-milligram regimen is so widely accepted that the 600-milligram dose is now considered bad medicine, and many doctors would refuse the procedure entirely rather than follow the old guideline.”

Unsurprisingly, doctors have chosen to give their patients less medication by prescribing these “off-label” dosages, a common practice that occurs in the years following any drug’s introduction to the market, after more research indicates better ways to administer the drug.

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Yet despite the frequency with which doctors go “off label,” state legislators only seem concerned about the practice when it comes to RU-486.

NRO’s assertion that the Oklahoma law “still leaves ample other methods of abortion open to women” is spurious. The law at the center of Cline, though it was passed under the guise of “women’s health,” is actually just another in a long line of constitutionally questionable pieces of anti-abortion legislation that place insurmountable obstacles between women and their doctors, considered by experts like Bazelon to be “the biggest-ever wave of abortion restrictions.” Medication abortions are a particularly tantalizing target for anti-choice activists because not only does RU-486 eliminate the costs and burdens associated with repeatedly traveling to the nearest clinic (which could be hundreds of miles away), they also protect women from vocal protestors outside of abortion facilities.

It makes sense, then, that conservatives who have been championing other heavy-handed abortion restrictions would focus in on a drug that gives more reproductive freedom than ever. It is their overreach in placing an “undue burden” on the right to abortion, however, that ensured Supreme Court review.

This was likely the real goal from the start–an invitation for the conservative justices on the Supreme Court to gut Casey and Roe v. Wade, the cornerstone cases of reproductive justice.


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