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Federal judge upholds Ohio law limiting 'abortion pill'

A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio [official website] on Monday upheld an Ohio law [2919.123 text] that limits the use of the "abortion pill," overturning a 2006 injunction [JURIST report]. The law requires that the use of the pill, RU-486 [FDA guidelines], conform with federal guidelines, which currently do not allow the pill to be used after seven weeks of pregnancy. Judge Susan Dlott originally placed an injunction on the law [opinion, PDF] in 2006, finding it unconstitutional due to vagueness. The case was then appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website], which certified two questions [opinion, PDF] for the Ohio Supreme Court [official website]: "Does O.R.C. 2919.123 mandate that physicians in Ohio who perform abortions using mifepristone do so in compliance with the forty-nine-day gestational limit described in the FDA approval letter?" and "Does O.R.C. 2919.123 mandate that physicians in Ohio who perform abortions using mifepristone do so in compliance with the treatment protocols and dosage indications described in the drug's final printed labeling?" The Ohio Supreme Court opinion [text, PDF] found in the affirmative for both questions. Based on this ruling, Dlott found the law constitutional, rejecting the argument by Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio [advocacy website] that the law was still vague and forced women to choose surgical abortions. Planned Parenthood has not determined whether they will appeal the ruling.

Oklahoma has also prohibited the use of RU-486 [JURIST report]. In April, the Ohio Senate approved a bill [JURIST report] that would limit the availability of abortions after 20 weeks. That bill is pending in the House. Missouri, Indiana, Alabama and Oklahoma [JURIST reports] have each passed legislation this year which restricts the abortion procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Also, earlier this year, a legislative committee in the Ohio House of Representatives advanced [Columbus Dispatch report] the "Heartbeat Bill," [HB 125 text], which would ban abortions after the point at which a fetus's heartbeat becomes detectable in the womb.

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