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Supreme Court declines Okla. abortion case

But Texas law boosts chances it will hear issue

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court decided Monday not to hear a case about an Oklahoma abortion law after all, dismissing as “improvidently granted” a case it had agreed to hear in June. But new abortion restrictions in Texas and other states have increased the chances the issue will come before the justices soon.

As the high court was dismissing the Oklahoma case, Planned Parenthood was asking the justices to block the provision of a new Texas law requiring doctors who perform abortions in clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

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The group said more than a third of the 36 clinics in Texas have been forced to stop providing abortions since a court order allowed the new restrictions to take effect Friday.

Planned Parenthood said the order is also forcing many women to travel several hours to obtain abortions.

“This forced cessation of services and reduction in capacity will prevent, each year, approximately 20,000 Texas women who would have otherwise had an abortion from accessing this constitutionally protected health care service,” the application filed Monday said.

Planned Parenthood said the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals went too far in overruling a trial judge who blocked the provision on hospital admitting privileges.

Monday’s application was addressed to Justice Antonin Scalia, the member of the court assigned to handle emergency matters from federal courts in Texas.

He instructed state officials to file a response by next Tuesday, and the new provision will remain in effect until then.

The appeals court ruled three days after a trial judge said the provision serves no medical purpose.

The three-judge appellate panel acknowledged that the provision ‘‘may increase the cost of accessing an abortion provider and decrease the number of physicians available to perform abortions.’’

However, the panel said the Supreme Court has held that having ‘‘the incidental effect of making it more difficult or more expensive to procure an abortion cannot be enough to invalidate’’ a law that serves a valid purpose, ‘‘one not designed to strike at the right itself.’’

The appellate panel’s ruling is temporary until it can hold a complete hearing, probably in January.

The Texas restrictions are among the toughest in the nation and gained notoriety when Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis launched a nearly 13-hour filibuster against them in June.

Davis has since decided to run for governor and could face Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is defending the law, in the November 2014 election. Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, has said he will not seek another term.

The high court’s action in the Oklahoma case followed a state Supreme Court ruling last week that the law, enacted in 2011, violated the Constitution by effectively banning all medicinal, nonsurgical abortions.

The state ruling came in response to questions from the US Supreme Court seeking clarification of the scope of the law.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s broad answer apparently made the case, Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, less attractive to the justices who had voted to hear the case and who probably wanted to consider only the narrower issue of whether states may require adherence to the protocol from the Food and Drug Administration for an abortion-inducing drug.

Other cases presenting versions of that narrower question, including the one concerning a Texas law, may soon reach the court.

The Oklahoma case concerned a 2000 protocol from the FDA, which approved the use of mifepristone, sometimes called RU-486, in combination with a second drug, to induce abortions.

The Oklahoma law at issue in the case dismissed Mon- day restricted the use of abortion-inducing drugs to that protocol.

In December, the state Supreme Court struck down the law in a brief and cryptic decision.

Even as the US Supreme Court agreed in June to hear the state’s appeal, it asked for clarification from the state Supreme Court about whether the law merely required adherence to the FDA-approved protocol for mifepristone or did more.

The state Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the broader answer, saying the law “effectively bans all medication abortions.”

It rested its decision in large part on language in the state law that it said applied not just to mifepristone but also to a second drug used in combination with it, misoprostol.

The court explained in an unsigned decision that new research since 2000 had refined the proper use of mifepristone, calling for a lower dose, fewer visits to clinics, and use later in the pregnancy.

“Ninety-six percent of medication abortions in the United States are now provided according to a regimen different from the one described in mifepristone’s FDA-approved label,” the court said.

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