Amid the news coverage of tornadoes in Oklahoma yesterday, I noticed something else – the Oklahoma House quietly passed (88-8) a new abortion bill, which will now move on to the Senate. The Statistical Reporting on Abortion Act requires all women who want to obtain an abortion in Oklahoma to fill out a questionnaire – that will be posted online. Yes, you just read that correctly.
The abortion provider will administer and submit the questionnaire electronically to the health department within the last business day of the month; the month after the abortion was performed. The health department will then post the information to an online website. Some of the questions include: age, county abortion was performed, history of miscarriages, pregnancy, abortions, race, martial status and if there was an infant born alive as result of the abortion (come on, really?). The questionnaire also delves into the more-private “reason for abortion” — some of the options include: having a child would – interfere with education of the mother, mother cannot afford the child, the mother is unmarried, mother cannot afford childcare, mother is on welfare, mother is unemployed, husband or partner wants her to have the abortion, or mother is not mature enough to have a child. The questionnaire also asks what method of payment used and if the patient was an employee of the state. Not only are these questions a huge violation of privacy, but it is also a massive deterrent for a state employee to obtain an abortion. How can she be sure that when the report is submitted to the health department that her identifying information will not be shared or escape as well?
It really all comes down to obstacles. The legislature in Oklahoma already overrode the Governor’s veto of another bill in April adding the obstacle of requiring any woman seeking an abortion to receive (some argue forcible rape) an ultrasound – plus a description of the fetus on the screen. This is all on top of laws already on the books – a 24-hour waiting period, mandatory counseling, and parental notifications, just to name a few. The stigma of abortion is huge in Oklahoma – we already know that – but this questionnaire is psychologically threatening to women. Women will now have to go through the anxiety of questioning whether their responses will somehow be leaked with her name, if she is from small town, will the answers make her recognizable, or if she decides to just lie. There is no question that this is a hurdle put in place to discourage women from having a legal procedure.
There needs to be a national outcry and a rush of support for activists in Oklahoma. Progressives are in the minority and severely outnumbered – but we are there, I promise! Although some of you may want to write Oklahoma off as a rural, conservative, lost cause — beware. Your state is next.
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