A new Oklahoma law will require the details of every abortion to be posted on a public website. Proponents say this will prevent abortion — apparently by shaming and burdening women and doctors.
The law (which you can look at here — it's HR 1595) mandates that a 34-item questionnaire be filled out by abortion providers for each procedure. The questionnaire doesn't include the woman's name or "any information specifically identifying the patient," but it does ask for age, race, level of education, marital status, number of previous pregnancies, and the county in which the abortion was performed, information which opponents of the bill argue would be enough to identify a woman in a small town. The questionnaire also asks about the mother's reason for the abortion, her method of payment, and even what type of insurance she has, as well as whether the fetus received anaesthetic and whether there was "an infant born alive as a result of the abortion."
Broadsheet's Lynn Harris writes,
According to proponents of the law, this extensive abortion data — which will include the reason the procedure was sought — will help health officials prevent future abortions. Yeah, I can see that. Because the requirement itself would scare the shit out of me.
Harris also points out that the way the data is collected will make it very difficult to use in any scientific or sociological research. But it's unlikely that those who devised the questionnaire intended it to be used for objective science. Its questions (especially those related to ultrasound and providing the patient with written materials prior to abortion) seem geared toward figuring out the best way to keep women from aborting. And the questionnaire itself looks like one more way of shaming women out of the abortion process. It may also deter doctors, who now have a new and very long piece of paperwork to complete. As if that weren't enough, the law also bans sex-selective abortions. Jennifer Mondino, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Broadsheet,
The sex-selective bans in effect limit access to abortion because it may chill doctors from providing the service. It's difficult for a doctor to determine the reason why a woman is having an abortion. So it's yet another hurdle for doctors who are simply trying to provide a legal safe service.
Luckily, the bill's very broadness may be its downfall. The Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging it on the ground that it violates the Oklahoma Constitution because it "covers more than one subject" — a challenge that previously worked to strike down an abortion ultrasound law. Harris appeared sanguine about the Center's chances for getting the law struck down, which is lucky, because otherwise the women of Oklahoma will become data points in a system designed to advance an ideological goal.