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April 16, 2014

Oklahoma Senate approves limits on abortion drug

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to further restrict the use of abortion-inducing drugs in Oklahoma in a bill written in direct response to a recent state Supreme Court decision.

The Senate voted 37-5 for the bill that now heads to Gov. Mary Fallin, who previously signed a similar measure.

The bill would prohibit off-label uses of certain abortion-inducing drugs by requiring doctors to administer the drugs only in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration protocol. A similar bill was approved by the Legislature and signed in 2011, but that measure was declared unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which ruled that it effectively banned all drug-induced abortions in the state.

Sen. Greg Treat, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said it was specifically drafted to address the concerns raised by the court that lawmakers did not clearly state their intent.

“We delineated our intent very clearly in this bill now,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City.

The bill specifically states the Legislature’s intent is not to ban the use of the drug misoprostol in chemical abortions, or prevent the off-label use of drugs for the treatment of ectopic pregnancies, a potentially life-threatening situation when a fertilized egg develops outside of a woman’s womb.

Sen. Connie Johnson, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, attempted to amend the bill to specifically prohibit the off-label use of drugs for executions, but the amendment was quickly tabled. Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, said it was hypocritical for the state to restrict the off-label use of abortion drugs, while at the same allowing off-label uses of drugs to execute condemned inmates.

Johnson also criticized the Republican-controlled Legislature for its continued efforts to restrict abortion, a procedure that has been upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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