Ohio Supreme Court to Hold Hearing on Abortion Drug Safety Law on Tuesday
by Steven Ertelt
March 9, 2009
Columbus, OH (LifeNews.com) — The Ohio Supreme Court will hold a hearing on Tuesday on a state law to protect women from the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug. The law has been embroiled in a legal battle since an abortion business took it to court following its approval by the state legislature.
The abortion drug, also known as mifepristone, has been responsible for the deaths of at least a dozen women worldwide and has injured more than 1,200 according to FDA figures from 2007.
The Ohio legislature passed a law requiring abortion businesses to follow FDA guidelines when using the drug, as off-label usage by Planned Parenthood abortion centers may have contributed to the women’s deaths.
Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio sued to block the law from taking effect and claimed it should be declared unconstitutional.
A lower court declared the law unconstitutional and previous Attorney General Jim Petro appealed the decision to a federal appeals court.
In early 2008 the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asked the Ohio Supreme Court to interpret parts of the law. The state court will consider whether the state has the ability to limit the prescription of the abortion drug and whether off-label use is permitted under state law.
Charmaine Yoest, the president of Americans United for Life, told LifeNews.com that "RU-486 has a proven track record of ruining and even ending women’s lives."
"We must put a stop to abortionists’ dangerous, off-label use of this drug. Ohio’s statute is a step in the right direction, and as we argue in our brief, it should be upheld," she said.
The abortion business filing suit against the drug argues Ohio’s regulation of mifepristone unconstitutional because the regulation’s requirements are unclear.
AUL joins Ohio officials in countering that the Ohio regulation is definitive in its requirement that abortion practitioners only use the abortion drug regimen in the way in which it was tested by the FDA, which is clearly laid out in the drug manufacturer’s instructions that accompany the drug.
Mailee Smith, a staff attorney with AUL, told LifeNews.com, "The argument that abortionists don’t know how to correctly dispense RU 486 is nonsensical. Physicians routinely follow the protocols approved by the FDA and described in manufacturer’s instructions when dispensing other drugs. Ohio’s regulation simply requires that abortionists do this with RU 486."
During the appeals court 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, complains the law 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 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 how 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.
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.
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