Yesterday, our colleagues at Jezebel wrote about a new Oklahoma law
that 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.
Anna N. wrote:
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."
Lynn Harris, quoted in the Jezebel piece, writes,
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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, Harris goes on:
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
The Center for Reproductive Rights is working with others in Oklahoma to challenge the law. Last week, former Oklahoma state representative Wanda Stapleton joined Shawnee, Oklahoma resident Lora Joyce Davis in filing a legal challenge against the law, charging it will:
[I]mpose a host
of restrictions on women’s access to abortion and cost the state over a
quarter of a million dollars a year to enforce. The plaintiffs are
represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights and
argue that the state legislature overstepped its authority by enacting
a statute that will both violate the Oklahoma’s Constitution and waste
CRR stated that:
The Oklahoma Constitution requires that laws address only one subject
at a time, but the new measure covers four distinct subjects, including
redefining a number of abortion-related terms used in the Oklahoma
code; banning sex-selective abortion; requiring doctors who perform
abortions or treat patients who have had abortions to report extensive
patient information to the state health department; and creating new
responsibilities for the State Health Department, the State Board of
Medical Licensure and Supervision, and the State Board of Osteopathic
Examiners relating to gathering and analyzing abortion data and
enforcing abortion restrictions. According to the legislature’s own
estimates, implementing the new reporting requirements will cost the
state $281,285 during the first year and $256,285 each subsequent year.
In filing the suit, Stapleton stated:
As taxpayers in this state, we expect our representatives to
follow the state constitution, not pick and choose what measures suit
them, then pass unconstitutional legislation that shortchanges their
constituents by a quarter-of-a-million dollars.
The 2009 statute is the Oklahoma legislature’s second attempt in the
last two years to restrict abortion by bundling numerous provisions
into one bill. Last month, a state district court struck down a 2008 abortion ultrasound law that included, among other abortion restrictions, the most extreme
ultrasound requirement in the country and a requirement that would have
limited the availability of abortions performed with the medical
abortion pill. The court in that case ruled that the statute included
too many disparate topics and therefore violated the state