Ohio Attorney General Fights for Abortion Drug Safety Law at Appeals Court
by Steven Ertelt
April 24, 2008
Columbus, OH (LifeNews.com) — Lawyers for Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann argued before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday for a state law to protect women from the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug. Dann had to take up the battle to fight for the law after pro-abortion Ohio Governor Ted Strickland dropped a previous effort.
The law has been embroiled in a legal battle ever since an abortion business took it to court following approval from the state legislature.
The abortion drug, also known as mifepristone, has been responsible for the deaths of seven women in the U.S. alone and has injured more than 1,200 according to FDA figures.
The Ohio legislature passed a law requiring abortion businesses to follow FDA guidelines when using the drug, as off-label usage may have contributed to the women’s deaths.
A lower court declared the law unconstitutional and previous Attorney General Jim Petro appealed the decision to a federal appeals court. But Strickland, a Democrat, said he wouldn’t file papers for the state in the appeal.
Dann’s office took up the appeal and told the appeals court it should reverse the previous ruling.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Anne Berry Strait, an assistant attorney general, told the judges there is nothing unconstitutional about the law and said abortion advocates just don’t like it.
"Planned Parenthood and its physicians understand exactly what the act does and means," she said.
Planned Parenthood, which came under fire for putting women at risk with the off label use of the abortion drug, sued to overturn the safety law and complained it would subject abortion practitioners to fines and possible jail terms for putting women’s health at risk by violating the FDA protocols.
The newspaper indicated the three judge panel from the appellate court wondered why the case was brought to federal courts and said a lawsuit in state courts would have been more appropriate.
That could give some indication that they plan to reverse the lower court ruling U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott issued.
The law tells abortion practitioners not to encourage women to use the abortion drug vaginally, which experts say could be responsible for why the RU 486 abortion drug has killed four women in California. It also says the abortion pill can’t be used after the seventh week of pregnancy.
In the initial decision, Judge Susan Dlott ruled that the Ohio law is vague and claims it could put women’s health in jeopardy. She claimed the law is confusing and that abortion practitioners couldn’t be reasonably expected to understand and implement it.
Dann disagrees and says the law is very "specific in both language and intent."
The appeals court initially upheld Dlott’s ruling preventing the law from being implemented and then sent the case back to her to determine haw far an injunction against it should extend.
Dlott issued a second ruling prohibiting any enforcement of any part of the law during the appeal process.
The 6th Circuit also ruled that Ohio cannot put in place protections for women on the abortion drug unless it allows exceptions for those who may face a greater health risk having a surgical abortion.
Pro-life advocates condemned the governor’s decision not to pursue the case and said it would hurt women’s health and safety.
"I’m quite disappointed the governor is not going to pursue it," Denise Mackura, then-executive director of Ohio Right to Life, said after Strickland’s decision.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists filed legal papers supporting the abortion businesses that brought the lawsuit saying that the abortion drug could sometimes be in the best interest of women, despite its numerous health problems.
Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati supported the law and told LifeNews.com it would ensure that only doctors could prescribe the abortion drug.
The group said the law was important because it made sure abortion businesses followed FDA guidelines which include "a complete medical exam before prescribing RU-486, careful monitoring during the abortion process, and that any physician who provides RU-486 report any serious complications to the state medical board."
An abortion practitioner who violated the Ohio law protecting women could have received as much as an 18-month prison sentence.
The FDA has placed its highest black box warning on the abortion drug.