An Oklahoma judge has overturned a law that would have required doctors not only to perform ultrasounds on all women seeking abortion, but to describe the resulting images. One critic called the law the most extreme in the country.
Stephanie Toti, an attorney for the clinic that challenged the law, said it was more extreme than all similar statutes because it would have required women not only to undergo an ultrasound, but also to "hear medically irrelevant information" about it. The law also allowed clinicians to opt out abortions for moral or religious reasons, required women to sign a consent form before abortion, and prohibited wrongful-life lawsuits that allege a disabled child should not have been born.
Tony Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life said prior to the ruling that women needed a description of an ultrasound in order to make "an informed opinion" on whether to terminate a pregnancy. he also said that allowing a woman to go through with abortion without such a description might cause her "extreme psychological problems." It's a little inconsistent that a group so intent on pushing an unnecessary scan that some critics call "emotional blackmail" (Oklahoma's governor originally vetoed the ultrasound lot because he did not want to force victims of rape or incest to look at a picture of the fetus) seems to care so much about a woman's psyche, but in fact supporters of the law aren't saying what they really mean.
Oklahoma's Special Assistant Atty. Gen. Teresa Collett said, "Common medical practice is to require doctors to provide patients information that's necessary for them to make informed decisions." But ultrasound laws aren't really about giving the patient more information. Many doctors say there's no medical reason for the scans. As Focus on the Family's Jim Daly revealed yesterday, though, there is a political reason: his group believes that 65% of women who see an ultrasound don't go through with the abortion. An ultrasound in this case isn't information, it's propaganda, and requiring it is based on the notion that women are in denial about their abortions and should be forced to look at an image of the fetus as a tool to talk them out of it.
None of this is why Oklahoma judge Vicki Robertson overturned the law yesterday. She said the law, which never went into effect, violated the Oklahoma Constitution because it dealt with more than one subject. The Oklahoma clinic that issued the legal challenge had also argued that the law was vague about how exactly a doctor should describe an ultrasound. Collett disputed both points, saying that all the law's provisions dealt with "the taking of human life" and that it required doctors to "tell a woman about the dimensions of the fetus, as well as the presence of a heartbeat, arms, legs and internal organs." She plans to meet with state officials to discuss an appeal.
Oklahoma Abortion Law Overturned [AP, via LA Times]
Judge: No Required Ultrasound For Abortion [CBS]
Judge Rules Oklahoma Abortion Law Unconstitutional [NewsOK]
Judge Hears Arguments Over Abortion Law [Tulsa World]
Ultrasound: Latest Tool In Battle Over Abortion [Christian Science Monitor]