Ohio Supreme Court Should Clarify Abortion Drug Law Appeals Court Says
by Steven Ertelt
June 23, 2008
Cincinnati, OH (LifeNews.com) — A federal appeals court says the top court in Ohio should clarify a state law to protect women from the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug. 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.
On Monday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asked the Ohio Supreme Court to interpret parts of the law.
During the hearing, 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.
An order preventing enforcement of the law remains in effect while the case proceeds.
U.S. District Judge Susan J. Dlott had previously indicated the law was unclear and said it should have an exception for cases when a woman’s health is at risk, even though the abortion drug causes significant health problems for women.
In April, attorneys representing Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann argued before the Sixth Circuit in favor of the law. They took up the battle to keep the law on the books after pro-abortion Ohio Governor Ted Strickland dropped a previous effort.
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 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.
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.
A British woman recently became the fourteenth victim of the abortion drug worldwide.
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