Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Raging Maniacs in Oklahoma Prevail over Governor's Veto

The State of Oklahoma has just enacted some horrific legislation that if allowed to stand will make life harder and meaner for women of childbearing age.

This is from AFP's report:
Oklahoma lawmakers overrode their governor's veto Tuesday to enact tough abortion laws that force women to undergo invasive ultrasounds and allow doctors to withhold test results showing fetal defects.

Even women who are victims of rape or incest will be required to listen to a detailed description of the fetus and view the ultrasound image prior to terminating a pregnancy.

They will also likely be required to undergo vaginal rather than abdominal ultrasounds as doctors are required to use the method that "would display the embryo or fetus more clearly."

The second bill shields doctors from "wrongful birth" malpractice lawsuits brought by parents who would have aborted a fetus had they been informed about its genetic or other defects.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of the ultrasound law, which it said "profoundly intrudes upon a patient's privacy."

A similar Oklahoma law was struck down last year.

"Politicians have no business making medical decisions," said Stephanie Toti, a staff attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"Another round in the courts won't change our strong constitutional claims against the law, it will only waste more of Oklahoma taxpayers' time and money."

Democratic Governor Brad Henry tried to block the bills last week, but the Republican-dominated Oklahoma legislature overwhelmingly overrode his veto with the help of Democrats.

Henry said that while he supports "reasonable" restrictions on abortions, the laws had serious constitutional flaws and represented an excessive intrusion of government into the private lives of its citizens.

"It is unconscionable to grant a physician legal protection to mislead or misinform a pregnant woman in an effort to impose his or her personal beliefs on his patient," the governor said in his veto message.

"State policymakers should never mandate that a citizen be forced to undergo any medical procedure against his or her will, especially when such a procedure could cause physical or mental trauma," he added.

Abortion foes hailed the veto overrides as a victory for the unborn.
But that's not all. They've also enacted the requirement that any woman seeking an abortion report on her marital status, education, miscarriages, previous abortions, method of abortion, reason for the abortion, and method of payment, which is then to be posted on the Internet for all the world to see (and presumably anti-abortion fanatics to harass). [ETA: As Nancy Jane Moore notes in the comments, the legislature hasn't yet overturned the governor's veto on this measure.] Here's the Tulsa World's description of it:
House Bill 3284, by Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, and Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, requires women seeking an abortion to report a host of information about themselves to be displayed statistically on a website run by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Information to be reported by the woman includes: marital status; education; miscarriages; abortions; method of abortion; reason for the abortion; and method of payment.

Jolley said the information is needed to help policy makers determine how to prevent abortions. Wilson said the measure is a way to intimidate women so they won't get an abortion.

Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, called the measure a "gross invasion of privacy," adding that it was an intrusion into the relationship between a woman and her doctor.
These guys are seriously warped. It's all a waste of money, since presumably just about any court would throw these laws out as unconstitutional. But I suppose making women and civil liberties groups spend money contesting insane laws is a primary purpose of the exercise.

ETA: A video by Newsy's Multisource Video News Analysis can be seen here.


Gretchen said...

That's awful. Thanks for reporting on it.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

That second bill (HB 3284, the one requiring all the reports) has not officially passed the Okla. Legislature yet, though it looks like it has about the same support as the other two. Even if the governor vetoes it, as he did the other two, I suspect the Legislature can override the veto. The first two bills mentioned became law after the Legislature overrode the veto.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has thrown out previous restrictive abortion laws. In fact, they've affirmed the actions of trial courts, which have thrown them out, so the courts have been active. But in the recent cases, all those laws have been found unconstitutional because they were enacted as part of omnibus laws that included several different bills. The Oklahoma constitution prohibits that, according to settled precedent in the state. These new laws have each been adopted separately, so now we will see what the Oklahoma courts have to say about them more directly.

Timmi Duchamp said...

Thanks, Nancy. (I've corrected my post.) I'm sorry, though, to hear that there's a chance that the courts might allow this legislation to stand.

One of the people commenting on the legislation in the Newsy video I link to at the end of my post notes that the focus of these laws is women rather than embryos or fetuses. Certainly the vaginal ultrasound is nothing more than ordering the use of an unnecessary medical procedure as punishment. In every instance in which the state has mandated the use of medical procedures for punishment, it has done so on the presumption that the individual being tormented with it is not a full, socially autonomous, human being (and perhaps is intended to make certain that the person forced to undergo the unnecessary procedure realizes that that is the state's message to them and everyone else involved).

Moreover, although no one is mentioning it, adding an ultrasound (whether vaginal or abdominal) to the requirements adds an enormous additional expense. In this case, I imagine, women living in Oklahoma who need abortions will find themselves weighing the cost of the ultrasound against the cost of traveling to another state for the procedure.