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Wednesday
Apr282010

And the land we belong to is grand - unless you're pregnant.

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posted by ANaturalAdvocate

Yesterday, the Oklahoma State Legislature overrode vetoes of two controversial bills dealing with abortion.

The first bill (HB 2780) requires women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound image and listen to the physician describe - in detail - what she is seeing. Specifically, it requires that, at least an hour before the procedure is to be performed, the physician who will perform the abortion (or a technician working with the physician)

  • performs an ultrasound “using either a vaginal transducer or an abdominal transducer, whichever would display the embryo or fetus more clearly;”
  • explains simultaneously what the ultrasound is showing, including “the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, if present and viewable, and the presence of external members and internal organs, if present and viewable;” and 
  • display the images in such a way that the woman may view the images (although - thankfully - nothing in the bill “shall be construed to prevent a pregnant woman from averting her eyes from the ultrasound images required to be provided and reviewed with her”).

Failure to comply with this bill is a felony, by the way. 

The second bill (HB 2656) states that

“In a wrongful life action or a wrongful birth action, no damages may be recovered for any condition that existed at the time of a child’s birth if the claim is that the defendant’s act or omission contributed to the mother’s not having obtained an abortion.”

What this means is that an omission on the part of the doctor with regards to a potential birth defect or other condition cannot be held against him in a wrongful birth suit if he did not tell the woman about the defect in an attempt to prevent her from obtaining an abortion. Mind you, the bill is awful nice in stating that suits stating that an act or omission of the physician caused the defect (or could have prevented or lessened it) are perfectly fine. However, in Oklahoma a physician can now hide the fact that the fetus has a potential defect - or even lie about it - with no consequences if that prevented her from obtaining an abortion.

These bills have also been given “emergency” status, meaning that they are “immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety” and therefore will be in immediate full force. 

There has been, as you might imagine, some uproar about these actions, although not necessarily as much as you might imagine. The Center for Reproductive Rights and a physician and reproductive services provider have both filed lawsuits regarding the first bill requiring ultrasounds on the basis that the requirement interferes with the privacy rights of women and subjects them to unwanted speech, in addition to a couple of legal technicalities (such as void-for-vagueness and “impermissible special law”). 

Frankly, though, I’m more concerned about the impact of the second law on the rights of pregnant and laboring women and, perhaps, the rights of women in general. HB 2656 is a clear acceptance of a physician’s right to keep information from a woman that would directly impact her healthcare decisions. Once a woman’s right to healthcare information from her provider is chipped away at, who knows where the chipping might end.

My only consolation here is that I cannot imagine that these laws - in clear violation of medical ethics and good practice - will stand for very long. However, their impact in the meantime, and the fact that there was enough support for the Legislature to overturn the governor’s veto in such quick measure, is a little disturbing to contemplate.

 

More reading:

NYT: Strict Abortion Measures Enacted in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Passes Strictest Abortion Law, Protects Doctors Who Lie To Women

Center for Reproductive Rights Files Lawsuit against Oklahoma’s Ultrasound Requirement

 

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Reader Comments (41)

Ugh, this makes me feel sick. :(

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJMT

I am from Oklahoma and I am appalled but what do you expect from the reddest state from the presidential election? I hate the bill and support Henry's veto but for the present I am worried about the added cost of having the ultrasound done. It would raise the already high fee for an abortion to at least $100 more. There is only one provider in Norman, OK where I live and he has to constantly fight off christian protesters and defend his right to practice. I hope this doesn't put him out of business. I would hate to see another needed right taken away.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMandy Bridges

Thank you for calling attention to this. It seems to me a very short trip between a law like this and one that says a woman desiring a home birth will be required to have an ultrasound before the doctor will sign off (don't worry! she can look away!) It not only subjects a woman to unwanted speech, it requires them to produce the content of the speech from within their own bodies. Do pregnant women lose the right to remain silent?

I don't even know what to say about the second one. OBs already have plenty of license to lie to women.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca S

I wish a legislator would now and then think about what laws like this do to women who WANT their baby but need an abortion for medical reasons. Perhaps they should increase their depression/suicide prevention efforts too...

Oh wait, that would mean thinking about women as human beings and not just baby incubators. Never mind, sorry.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

I realize I'm probably pretty unwelcome here, but I was surprised to read this post and the attendant comments from a group of women who seem so pro-child.

What this bill means is that women can no longer kill their babies just because they have a defect--something that would be perfectly illegal were the child born for even a minute. Why do are we encouraging women to see their disabled child as something to be done away with? This bill is protection for disabled people, and since that is a group that has been historically discriminated against, I am proud that it passed.

A law that prevents a woman from killing her child is not taking away a woman's right to her body; it is recognizing that there are other rights that prevail over autonomy (another person's autonomy). I think legislators would have a harder fight mandating certain kinds of obstetric care from a facts stand point--that c-sections, hospital births, etc. do not produce healthier children or safer births than homebirth, midwifes, etc. But from a facts stand point, abortion kills a human child. It seems like this is something everyone should realize and support.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMJ

to Mandy, I live in Alaska, and my friend WAS required to have an ultrasound before her home birth!

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdanielle

I truly worry about the parents who wanted a child desperately and were given a terrible diagnosis, including a fatal diagnosis that would result in the child being born conscious but suffering and dying soon after birth. It's already an agonizing and awful decision, and laws mandating showing ultrasounds to these women have the sole purpose of increasing her agony, guilt and shame over something that is legal. Abortion ends the life of an embryo/fetus that would probably have otherwise gone on to be born, but the sad fact is that death is sometimes the better option.

And the second bill is just bizarre!

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKK

Frankly, though, I’m more concerned about the impact of the second law on the rights of pregnant and laboring women and, perhaps, the rights of women in general. HB 2656 is a clear acceptance of a physician’s right to keep information from a woman that would directly impact her healthcare decisions. Once a woman’s right to healthcare information from her provider is chipped away at, who knows where the chipping might end.

I could not agree with your concerns about this second bill more, Jill! Thanks for sharing!

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina

MJ:

"What this bill means is that women can no longer kill their babies just because they have a defect--"

No, MJ, that's not what it means. It means a doctor can LIE to their patient--fail to inform her of a critical piece of information regarding her health--and get away with it.

Lying to someone to make you do what they want, in a way that can have a devastating impact on their life, is neither ethical, nor Christian. Shame on you for not understanding this very basic moral principle.

You have the right to have your beliefs regarding abortion, and even to state your beliefs in an attempt to persuade a woman not to have an abortion.

You do NOT have the right to lie to her, put her health in jeopardy, harass her, or imprison her in order to make her comply with your religious beliefs. That is the logic of the Inquisition, and it has no place in our democracy. It violates the principles of the Constitution and of human decency. Hiding behind your belief that the fetus's rights trump the woman's is not an excuse. Because women are people, and they have the right to determine what happens within their own bodies.

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee

Argh..should be

"Lying to someone to make THEM do what YOU want..." etc.

/failure to preview

April 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee
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