Two new abortion laws are being challenged in Oklahoma, according to an NPR report, that would make an already “difficult decision … even more difficult.” The state would have women seeking abortions answer personal questions about relationships and race — and they would have to have their doctor “talk them through an ultrasound.”
Here’s what’s going down:
One law would require women to fill out a lengthy survey that asks, among other things, about their race, education and reason for seeking an abortion. It asks women whether they’re having relationship problems, whether they can’t afford to raise a child or whether having a baby would dramatically change their lives.
Another section requires doctors to provide detailed information about complications that arise as a result of the procedure. The Health Department ultimately would compile the information into a statistical report and post it on its Web site. …
[T]he other law … would require women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound and to have a doctor talk them through what they’re seeing. The law would require a doctor to use a vaginal transducer in the earliest stages of pregnancy, since that provides the clearest image when the fetus is small. The method is more invasive than the abdominal ultrasounds most pregnant women undergo.
As for the first law, legislators are making predictable arguments for their respective parties. Ex-Democratic state Rep. Wanda Jo Stapleton said, “It is particularly Draconian, abusive, intimidating … Those are totally intimidating, totally personal questions, and it’s nobody’s business.”
Republicans are arguing that these mandatory surveys would help them to understand why women get abortions:
“Do they feel they have no other choice? Is it financial? What are the reasons that lead up to that very desperate choice of a woman?” said Republican state Rep. Pam Peterson, who played a key role in drafting both laws.
Republican state Rep. Dan Sullivan, who helped draft the questionnaire bill, said lawmakers are simply seeking as much information as possible to help them find ways to reduce the number of abortions in Oklahoma.
“These are tragic situations for people, and we’re not trying to compound anyone’s emotional state,” said Sullivan, of Tulsa.
I don’t know folks, if you really don’t want to compound anyone’s emotional state, maybe you could take a look at public information — like the economic ups-and-downs in your state, your sex-ed programs, and the number of abortions performed each year — and see if you can put two and two together if you want to reduce abortion rates. You know, HELP POOR PEOPLE. PROMOTE SAFE SEX. As for relationship problems, I don’t see how the government would intervene on that level — uh, here’s a coupon for a year of free couple’s counseling! — it’s not the government’s place to butt in on that level anyway. I’m with Stapleton: This is private, private, private — I don’t care if the questionnaires are kept anonymous or that the “Health Department has been directed to ensure personal information doesn’t make it onto the Web site.”
As for law no. 2, only “Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi require ultrasounds in all abortion cases, and Arizona and Florida require them after the first trimester. But no other states require doctors to describe the image to women and mandate that a vaginal ultrasound be used in certain cases …”
Yeah, so for women who weren’t already troubled enough by the prospect of having this procedures, their state reps want to step in and make sure they know just exactly how developed their fetus is … in more detail than happily pregnant women get.
The second law was overturned in a district court, but the state has filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Challenges to these laws may be reflective of the late-abortion debate, experts say:
Legal challenges to the laws are in their early stages, but observers say the trajectory of cases could mirror that of the late-abortion debate, which went through Nebraska courts and was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court before Congress made it a federal law that was upheld in 2007.
“That’s an apt comparison,” said Joseph Thai, a professor at the University of Oklahoma who specializes in constitutional law and the Supreme Court. “So, expect these Oklahoma laws and the ensuing court decisions to be the first rather than last word on how far a state may go with respect to compulsory procedures and reporting requirements.”
We’ll see you in court, Oklahoma.