Oklahoma’s new anti-choice laws, one requiring all women to have a mandatory ultrasound before an abortion, and one allowing doctors to lie to their patients if the fetus has an abnormality, are stirring up a lot of anger (not to mention a looming court battle). But the anger isn’t just in Oklahoma, but across the country, too.
Mary Alice Carr, from the National Institute of Reproductive Health writes in an editorial at CNN.com:
Oklahoma, what have you done?
Under this new law, a doctor may withhold information, mislead or even blatantly lie to a pregnant woman and her partner about the health of their baby if the doctor so much as thinks that fetal test results would cause a woman to consider abortion.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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As expected, the anti-abortion movement is claiming victory. But this bill isn’t “anti-abortion.” It is devastating because it is anti-motherhood and anti-medicine.
When I found out I was pregnant with each of my children, like every woman who has ever undergone fetal testing, I held my breath at each doctor’s appointment. I didn’t let it go until the doctor or the tech said, “Everything looks great.” I seized up when they took out the blood work results and I didn’t relax until I heard, “It all came back negative.”
But a woman in Oklahoma no longer gets to exhale. Because now, when a doctor says, “Everything looks fine,” she has to wonder; does it really? Oklahoma politicians have now said that she can no longer count on the sacred trust that always existed between her and her doctor. A doctor may now lie to her face and, in doing so, deny a woman what is quite possibly the most important piece of information she will ever receive in her life.
In California, the reaction is much the same.
Anti-abortion lawmakers in Oklahoma stooped to a new low this week by passing two bills that constitute a reprehensible intrusion of government into women’s lives.
It’s hard to tell which of the bills is the most repugnant.
The first requires doctors to force women to watch an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus within an hour before an abortion is performed. The requirement holds even for women who are victims of incest or rape. It will add gratuitous pain to a procedure that for the vast majority of women is already an anguished choice.
The second bill prevents a wrongful life or wrongful death lawsuit against doctors who withhold information about a pregnancy, even when a fetus has severe disabilities.
In other words, Oklahoma doctors are free to impose their beliefs on women and even to flat-out lie to them. Would a law making the same provision for an exclusively male condition ever get through Oklahoma’s or any other legislature? Not a chance.
Lying to a patient would be clearly unethical. Fortunately, it’s almost certainly unconstitutional as well. The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit two hours after the Oklahoma House and Senate overrode Gov. Brad Henry’s veto of the bill. The suit will argue that the laws invade a patient’s right to privacy and fail to respect patient autonomy.
It really is hard to decide which law is more repugnant, and which is more reviled. Dallas Morning News polled their entire editorial board, and all but one of them believe the ultrasound law was completely unreasonable, including a few of the vocally pro-life editorialists.
First off, I abhor the idea that some women and youths think of abortion as a form of birth control. People who think that way deserve to be exposed to ultrasound images and to hear an explanation of a fetus’s development so they can better understand that this is the worst, most abominable form of birth control imaginable. And the men who get them pregnant also deserve to be exposed to these images.
Abortion is repugnant, and I favor measures that make it a rare occurrence. I favor measures that make the parents fully understand what they’re doing. Once you’ve conceived a child, every subsequent step you take should be well-considered with full knowledge of the facts. If birth control were taught more effectively in school, I think we’d see abortion levels drop faster than using methods such as the one now being invoked in Oklahoma.
That said, I still want abortion to be available for those who choose it. I find it ridiculous when people like Tony Lauinger, of Oklahomans for Life, portray the Oklahoma law as somehow “protecting” the mother’s mental health: “Many women suffer severe emotional trauma as a result of having had an abortion. With this, women will have the full benefit of having all the information. We believe the effort … spares women from emotional or psychological distress that follows an abortion.”
That’s cynical political posturing at its worst. There can be no effect other than to induce extreme psychological distress by forcing the mother to watch an ultrasound of the fetus before the abortion is performed. I wish there were a middle road in this — something that informs the parents about the choice they’re making, makes abortion an extremely difficult choice to make, but also doesn’t turn it into an exercise in cruelty aimed at punishing the mother and inflicting emotional pain on her.
Then there is the real question, has the new ultrasound law actually worked at curbing abortion?
Women became emotional and some cried after being shown fetal ultrasound images at a Tulsa abortion clinic Wednesday, a day after Oklahoma enacted what has been called the nation’s most restrictive abortion law.
None of the women, however, decided against terminating their pregnancies, said Linda Meek, the executive director of Reproductive Services in Tulsa.
Mini Roundup: Michigan tries to jump onto the “no tax-payer funded abortions” bandwagon, because one ban wasn’t enough, Mississippi passes a second ban on funding, and Florida votes to ban funding for abortion while at the same time requiring women to pay out of pocket for an ultrasound in order to have one. On the bright side, at least South Carolina’s attempt to ban funds even to women who were victims of rape or incest didn’t go through.
April 28, 2010
Chief Complaint: My Virginia Itches – Medpie.com
Sen. Kuipers introduces bill that would block state taxpayer funding of abortions – Grand Haven Tribune
The Abortion Numbers Game. – Tapped
Dear Editor: (Health Care take this off) – Westside Gazette
Senate focuses on abortion debate in final hours – MiamiHerald.com
Canada: G8 backs maternal aid despite abortion row – Reuters Canada
States push abortion laws – Politico
State GOP platform eyes hot-button issues – Politics in Minnesota
Abortion and guns rights to dominate Legislature’s last day – Atlanta Journal Constitution
Abortion spat: Tobin takes hospitals from Catholic group – Providence Journal
Oklahoma forces women to have ultrasound before abortion – Telegraph.co.uk
Decision on abortions promoting Tory ‘ideology’ abroad: Critics – Montreal Gazette
Senate adopts anti-abortion amendments – Sun-Sentinel
SC senators reject bid to limit insured abortions – Daily Comet
Judge Has Record on Abortion Issue – Wall Street Journal
Bishop bans RI hosps from pro-health reform group – The Associated Press
Clinic: New Okla. abortion law hard on patients – The Associated Press
Ultrasounds May Be Required For Women Seeking Abortions – Sunshine State News
Abortion, trauma, guns to highlight last day of legislative session – Macon Telegraph
Hearing set on Oklahoma abortion lawsuit – NewsOK.com
Birth control pill: 50 years – Pune Mirror
Are Oklahoma’s new abortion laws reasonable? – Dallas Morning News
April 29, 2010
Harper government unlikely to end its hypocrisy over abortion – Edmonton Journal
SC senators reject bid to limit insured abortions – Daily Comet
Abortion measure sent to governor – Jackson Clarion Ledger
Senate plan feeds abortion debate – Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Providence bishop stirs new fracas over health care – Providence Journal
Editorial: Strict Oklahoma abortion measures are shameful – San Jose Mercury News
New act reflects public view on abortion funding – OneNewsNow
Diplomatic reaction to the pope – The Guardian
License-Plate Battle Finally Comes to End – Sun Gazette
Iranians told to have more kids – Sydney Morning Herald
Syphilis outbreaks highlight lack of funds for testing, prevention – Michigan Messenger
No more Ban on HIV/AIDS Infected Foreigners – TopNews United States
Ding! You’ve Got Chlamydia. – Huffington Post