It's being called the biggest abortion decision since Roe v. Wade, and it's happening right here in Oklahoma.
The fate of an Oklahoma law that "restricts" or "prevents" the way Oklahoma doctors prescribe an abortion-inducing medication will soon be decided in the Supreme Court. The case of Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, involving the drug (formerly known as RU-486) now known as Mifeprex, could affect abortion laws across the country.
"It's being called one of the trickiest laws in the Nation," says Fox 25 Legal Analyst David Slane. The 2011 Oklahoma law requires doctors to follow exact FDA protocol when administering the early-abortion inducing drug Mifeprex, for safety purposes. One of the guidelines is that the doctor must administer 600-milligrams of the drug. The FDA guidelines in regard to the drug Mifeprex were created in the year 2000. "Since it's been used, doctors have found that a lower dose is still effective (and it would) cost less," says Slane. "In all other (medical) cases, doctors change the medication requirements all the time, and there's never this kind of fight," says Slane.
Pro-choice advocates say the FDA's guidelines are outdated and cost-prohibitive of a woman's right to choose, which is why the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice challenged the law and had it struck down. "To follow all of these procedures only increases the cost. Obviously a large dosage of 600-milligrams, versus 200-milligrams is more expensive," says Slane. The FDA guidelines also require the doctor to be with the woman when the medication is taken. "Most doctors don't watch us take our medication, even for things like heart (problems)," says Slane. The guidelines also require multiple doctor's visits- also more costly.
But, pro-life advocates say the safety of both the woman and the unborn child is more important than cost, and they want the Supreme Court to give reasoning as to why the law was struck down. "In administering those type of drugs that would chemically burn an unborn child, and affect the woman, we want the highest level of oversight and protocol," says Mike Jestes, a member of the Oklahoma Pro-Life Media Coalition. "From conception to where you're at now, it all started at conception, so I believe life begins at conception. And, when it comes to the value of life, whether it be an unborn child or a woman's health, it's not a matter of cost to me," says Jestes.
Pro-choice advocates say the law is a "sneaky way for pro-life advocates to restrict abortions in the name of protecting women's health."At first blush, it appears to protect a woman's health, but, a closer look at it (shows it's) really that they're trying to restrict the use of this pill. It's really the anti-abortion groups out there getting the legislation to pass these types of laws," says Slane.
But, Jestes says the law is not restrictive, but rather preventive and protective. "Women's health and the choice of an unborn child- they're equally important and equally valued. I think one side values one and doesn't value the other.... and I, personally, value both equally," says Jestes. "If Roe v. Wade cannot be reversed, then the least we can do is bring the highest level of dignity, the highest level of sanctity and the highest level of care to both the women and the unborn child," says Jestes.
"It's not really a fight about what's good medically. It's really a fight about the right to choose or the right to life, and the doctors and the patients are getting caught in the middle. The court is now going to have to get in and decide," says Slane. He says the court could uphold the restrictions, or the court could say a woman and her doctor have the choice to decide how the drug should be used. Either way, Slane says the decision will be groundbreaking and will affect other states' abortion laws.
If the court upholds the restrictions, he says pharmaceutical companies will most likely go to the FDA and ask for the guidelines to be changed. He also says, women will go to different states to get abortions, and doctors could simply ignore the law and take the chance of getting prosecuted.
To see the FDA's guidelines, click here.
To read more on the case, click here.