- (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
This week the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up an appeal case over an Oklahoma abortion law that requires women to have an ultrasound and hear a medical description of their fetus before proceeding with an abortion. This is the second blow to pro-life legislation in the state in the past few weeks, as earlier this month the Supreme Court upheld a previous ruling that blocked higher standards being imposed on medicine-induced abortions.
The Supreme Court justices decided on Tuesday, without comment, that they would not be hearing the state's appeal of the case known as Pruitt v. Nova Health Systems. The lawsuit questions the constitutionality of the state law that requires women to have an ultrasound and hear a verbal medical description of their fetus one hour before having an abortion procedure. Although the woman would not be required to look at the ultrasound images, she would still have to go through with the abdominal or trans-vaginal ultrasound and hear a verbal description of the fetus that included details on the "the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, if present and viewable, and the presence of external members and internal organs, if present and viewable."
The Oklahoma Supreme Court previously ruled that the ultrasound law was unconstitutional because it placed an undue burden on an Oklahoma woman's choice to abort her baby. Those supporting the law argued, however, that the ultrasound requirement ensured women were making a fully informed decision about terminating their pregnancy.
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that the U.S. Supreme Court's Tuesday ruling let stand a previous decision by Oklahoma courts that "[protects] 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."
The state's pro-life leaders and attorney general expressed disappointment in Tuesday's ruling. Oklahomans for Life State Chairman Tony Lauinger said he is disappointed in the federal Supreme Court's decision to not take up the case because he believes the Oklahoma Supreme Court "misconstrued" a previous case from 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that it cited in its ruling for the ultrasound law. Planned Parenthood v. Casey asserted that women have the constitutional right to choose to have an abortion.
"We firmly believe the Oklahoma Supreme Court misconstrued the Casey decision in striking down the Oklahoma Ultrasound law," Lauinger said, according to LifeSite News. "Casey explicitly upholds the right of the states to provide for truly informed consent before an abortion. That is exactly what the Oklahoma Ultrasound law did."
Additionally, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruit (R), who supported the ultrasound law, said he was "disappointed" in the court's decision, especially since a federal appeals court in Texas recently upheld a similar law. "The unfortunate message sent by the Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision in this case is that when it comes to abortion regulations, what is legal in other states is illegal in Oklahoma," he said.
This is the second defeat for pro-life supporters in Oklahoma in recent weeks. Last week, the federal Supreme Court dismissed a state appeal on a law that placed restrictions on the abortion-inducing drug RU-486. The Oklahoma Supreme Court previously voided the law, arguing that it "restricts the long-respected medical discretion of physicians" who may decide a medical abortion is safer for a patient than a surgical abortion.