High court won’t hear Oklahoma ultrasound case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to intervene in an overturned Oklahoma law that would’ve required women seeking abortions to first view an ultrasound image of the fetus, one of several such restrictions approved by legislatures across the country.

It was the second time in just over a week that the nation’s highest court declined to hear arguments over a proposed Oklahoma abortion restriction. It previously let stand an Oklahoma court’s decision that struck down a separate law restricting drug-induced abortion.

Under the ultrasound measure, approved by the Legislature in 2010 and struck down by the Oklahoma courts, women seeking an abortion would have been required to have an ultrasound exam and then have the image placed in front of them while the provider described the fetus.

Twenty-three states had approved laws regulating ultrasounds and abortions, including three with laws similar to the Oklahoma one that was struck down. Those states are Texas, Louisiana and Wisconsin, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

The high court’s decision not to hear Oklahoma’s case won’t affect any of the other states, and it wasn’t clear whether the justices would eventually decide to hear arguments on one of the other state laws.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she was disappointed by the court system in this case.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited states like Oklahoma from banning abortion, despite the fact that our citizens are overwhelmingly pro-life,” she said in a statement. “Now the courts have taken their hostility to pro-life legislation a step further, prohibiting the state from providing more information to women about their unborn children.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit in April 2010 challenging the ultrasound law on behalf of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice; Nova Health Systems, a nonprofit reproductive health care facility in Tulsa; and an abortion doctor. A district court judge granted a temporary restraining order against the law in May 2010 and a permanent injunction in March 2012. In December 2012, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the justices’ decision to let the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling stand was a victory for women and reproductive health care providers. She added that it sends a clear message to lawmakers across the country “that attacks on women’s health, rights and dignity are patently unconstitutional and will not be allowed to stand.”