Without explanation, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that struck down the state’s regulation of the abortion drug regimen RU-486. Pro-life advocates had seen the case as an opportunity to solidify state-level restrictions on abortion at its earliest stages. It would’ve been the first case to address abortion regulations since 2007.
The Supreme Court issued orders on Monday and said it would not schedule the case, Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, for briefing and arguments. Typically the court doesn’t elaborate on its orders.
All the court said Monday: “The writ of certiorari is dismissed as improvidently granted.”
The Oklahoma law enforced the FDA restrictions on the abortion drug regimen, citing the eight women the FDA documented as dying from bacterial infections after taking the drug “off label.”
The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the law with the barest explanation. The U.S. Supreme Court granted the case for this term with a request that the Oklahoma court expand its justification for striking the law. Just last week the state Supreme Court delivered a longer answer to the high court’s questions. The state court said the Oklahoma law “effectively bans all medication abortions,” because doctors no longer prescribe the drugs based on the FDA restrictions. Lawyers working for the state legislators disagreed, saying, “The law was framed to allow chemical abortion as long as the provider followed a protocol approved by the FDA.”
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a ruling striking down a similar law in Texas, even as the court upheld other restrictions on abortion in the state.
With states passing so many and varied restrictions on abortion, the Supreme Court is likely to hear other cases on the matter—but maybe not this term.
“While we are disappointed that the faulty decision of the Oklahoma Supreme Court will now stand in Cline, we see Cline as the catalyst for what will ultimately be U.S. Supreme Court review of the safety and necessity of chemical abortion regulations,” Mailee Smith, one of the lawyers defending the Oklahoma law, wrote in an email. She said it wasn’t a matter of “if” but “when” the court would hear another such case. “Cline is not going to be that case, but it has paved the way for other states to enact regulations and for other cases to make the way to the court.”