Oklahoma state Attorney General agreed yesterday to a state judge's order to temporarily block enforcement of a new anti-choice state law for 45 days. The law in question requires medical professionals to show women the ultrasound image and give women a detailed description of the fetus prior to performing an abortion procedure. Oklahoma state law already requires an ultrasound prior to an abortion.
The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed a lawsuit against the law on behalf of Nova Health Systems, operators of a Tulsa, Oklahoma, clinic, and Dr. Larry Burns, an Oklahoma abortion provider. According to the Associated Press, CRR planned to argue in court for a temporary restraining order yesterday, but attorneys for the state and CRR agreed to the temporary order prior to the hearing.
The law went into effect immediately following a veto override by the state legislature last week and was in effect for most of last week. Jennifer Mondino, a CRR attorney, told Tulsa World that while the law was in effect, "It was really difficult for our client to have to put their patients through that" and that the CRR is "thrilled the law has been blocked from going into effect while we litigate the issue."
Governor Henry told CNN he vetoed the bill because "State policymakers should never mandate that a citizen be forced to undergo any medical procedure against his or her will, especially when such a procedure could cause physical or mental trauma...To do so amounts to an unconstitutional invasion of privacy."
The CRR lawsuit argues that the new elements of the ultrasound requirement intrude upon patient privacy and, according to a CRR press release, "forces a woman to hear information that she may not want to hear and that may not be relevant to her medical care [and] also dangerously discounts her abilities to make healthy decisions about her own life by forcing her to hear information when she's objected."
The Oklahoma state legislature also overrode the veto of a second anti-choice bill last week that prohibits women from suing doctors who intentionally withhold information or provide misleading or inaccurate information about a pregnancy. In addition to the two vetoes, Henry signed one anti-choice bill, which requires abortion clinics to post signs in their facilities stating that women cannot be coerced to have an abortion, that a woman's voluntary consent is required to obtain the procedure, and that sex selective abortions are illegal, at the same time. Henry had also signed three other anti-choice bills into law on April 5. The first of these bills outlaws sex-selective abortion, the second bill institutes a "conscience clause" allowing healthcare providers to refuse to participate in abortion procedures or refer patients to abortion providers, and the third bill puts restrictions on the administration of mifepristone (also known as RU-486) by requiring it be administered in the presence of a physician.
In March 2010, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the February ruling of a state District Court saying that an anti-choice law that included the current ultrasound provision was unconstitutional on the basis that it violated state rules requiring legislation address only a single subject.
Media Resources: Feminist Daily Newswire 4/28/10; Center for Reproductive Rights Press Release 4/27/10; Tulsa World 5/4/10; Associated Press 5/3/10; CNN 4/27/10