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Supreme Court drops abortion case from docket

Picture taken on October 25, 2005 of a nurse showing a box of the RU486 pill at the family planning department of Hopital Broussais
Picture taken on October 25, 2005 of a nurse showing a box of the RU486 pill at the family planning department of Hopital Broussais

The US Supreme Court announced without explanation Monday that it will not review an Oklahoma court's decision to overturn a state law that restricts the use of an abortion pill.

The court had said in June it would review an appeal by the state of Oklahoma, challenging the state supreme court's decision to overturn the 2011 law.

But on Tuesday, the Supreme Court announced it was dropping the appeal from its docket as "improvidently granted," after the Oklahoma Supreme Court last week informed the court that the law was so broad that doctors would not be able to perform any abortion using drugs instead of surgery.

The decision effectively upholds the lower court's ruling that the law was unconstitutional, and will allow doctors in the state to prescribe RU-486, also known as the Mifepristone abortion pill.

Despite its landmark "Roe V. Wade" decision in January 1973 legalizing abortion in the United States, the practice has remained a perennial source of controversy and in recent years a growing number of states have passed laws limiting it.

The court will still weigh in on the rights of protesters to demonstrate outside clinics that perform abortion.

And, having rejected the Oklahoma appeal, the court can also take up a Texas law that in part prohibits doctors from performing abortions unless they have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

It also drastically restricts the use of RU-486 for abortions.

In an appeal made public Monday, a group of women's health clinics and doctors in Texas asked the Supreme Court to block, at least temporarily, the application of the law.

They said that "in just a few short days since" the state appeals court allowed the law to go into effect, "over one-third of the facilities providing abortions in Texas have been forced to stop providing that care and others have been forced to drastically reduce the number of patients to whom they are able to provide care."

In the ruling allowing the law to go into effect, the appeals court said that while the Supreme Court has ruled that states may not place “undue burdens” on women seeking to terminate pregnancies, a law need not be invalidated simply because it “has the incidental effect of making it more difficult or more expensive to procure an abortion.”

It also ruled that even if more than 90 percent of the state's women did not live within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of an abortion clinic “this does not constitute an undue burden.”