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Supreme Court won't rule on medication abortions, striking Oklahoma ban

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a case concerning a state law in Oklahoma that cracked down on the use of the abortion-inducing drug RU-486, meaning a state court ruling invalidating the statute remains intact. 

The high court had been waiting for the Oklahoma Supreme Court to clarify its December 2012 ruling that voided the law before deciding on whether to rule on the case. Last week, the state court issued a new opinion explaining its reasoning in more detail.

The high court's latest action means the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling is final. That ruling invalidated a state law it said had the effect of banning abortion-inducing drugs altogether.

The Oklahoma court said in its first ruling on the law in December 2012 that the measure violated a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that set the standard for how courts should weigh abortion restrictions.

In June, the Supreme Court said it would review the case but first asked the state court to clarify what exactly the state law prohibits and whether it conflicts with U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidance.

The 2011 law prevents doctors from "off-label" use of the drug mifepristone, also known as the "abortion pill." It is sold by Danco Laboratories as Mifeprex, which is used with other medications to induce abortion up to seven weeks into a pregnancy.

The drug was approved by the FDA in 2000 subject to the instructions contained on the label.

The "off-label" use prohibited by the law developed later and allowed less physician oversight when the drug is used.

Opponents of the law, who support abortion rights, say the banning of off-label uses effectively prevented all medication-based abortions.

The last time the Supreme Court took up a related issue was in 2007 when it ruled 5-4 to uphold a federal law that banned a late-term abortion procedure.

Under the Supreme Court's 1992 precedent set in a case called Planned Parenthood v. Casey, an abortion regulation can be legal as long as it does not impose an "undue burden" on women seeking the procedure.

In that case the justices reaffirmed the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in which the court first held that women had the right to seek an abortion.

In a one-line order on Monday, the Supreme Court said the Oklahoma case was dismissed as "improvidently granted."

The case is Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-1094.

In related action on Monday, opponents of a new Texas law that imposes new abortion restrictions asked the high court to reimpose a district court stay on a part of the law that prevents doctors from performing abortions unless they have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The high court has not yet decided how to respond to the request.

Related news:

Appeals court reinstates most of Texas abortion restrictions