A local judge recently ruled a draconian 2009 anti-abortion law is unconstitutional, but for pro-choice advocates it’s a bittersweet victory.
Oklahoma County District Judge Dan Owens ruled that legislators violated the state constitution when they placed multiple laws in a single piece of legislation. The ruling struck down a law that made it illegal for doctors to perform abortions on women based on the gender of the fetus.
It also struck down a law requiring doctors to submit detailed and personal information about their patients to the state Health Department. That information, supposedly protecting the identities of individual women, would be published on a web site.
It’s important to note that Owens ruled only on a technical aspect of the legislation and not the substance of the bill. Legislators have simply introduced separate bills this session covering the same topics and those bills will probably pass the Republican-dominated legislature. This is what makes it a bittersweet victory for people who support reproductive freedom for women.
The law that makes it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion based on the fetus’s gender is simply superfluous, political calculation. As I wrote in a 2009 commentary in the Oklahoma Gazette:
Are Oklahoma women really seeking abortions based on gender? Where is the evidence? How would a doctor determine that gender was the reason for a particular abortion unless a woman volunteered the information?
The other law is a way to intimidate and harass women seeking abortions. It would require doctors to give the state Health Department personal information about their patients, including race, age, marital status and the county in which the abortion was performed. Women would have to give the reason for the abortion as well, and this information would go on a web site costing the state an estimated $280,000 to create and then even more money to maintain.
The anti-abortion crowd argues the law is simply a way to study the abortion issue.
Some pro-choice advocates have argued women from small towns might get identified. Women seeking abortions here would be faced with a barrage of questions about their personal life, knowing this information would be made public, even if their identities remain protected. The law could also be viewed as a first step to publicly disclose the identities of women who get abortions here.
Another law requiring women receive an ultrasound before an abortion was earlier struck down by a judge because of the single subject rule. The law would have also required medical staff to describe the ultrasound in a detailed way to women. A new ultrasound bill has been filed this session.
As I’ve written many times before, all this anti-abortion legislation really targets poor women, who might not be able to afford to travel outside Oklahoma for an abortion procedure.