Oklahoma Legislature Passes Anti-Choice Law Requiring Publication of Patient Information
The Oklahoma state Senate voted 32 to 11 today in favor of legislation that would require doctors to report detailed information about patients seeking abortions to the government. This information would be posted online. In March, the state House voted 85 to 8 in favor of the legislation, which now goes to Governor Brad Henry (D) for consideration.
The questionnaire will ultimately be posted on the Oklahoma State Department of Health website and includes information as detailed as a woman's reason for an abortion, her age, marital status, the date of the abortion, and the total number of previous pregnancies, miscarriages, abortions, and live births. Though supporters of the bill argue that the omission of a woman's name and address preserves her right to privacy, opponents assert that it would be possible to identify a woman from a small town from the information to be published.
According to the American Medical Association, "the physician's duty to maintain confidentiality means that a physician may not disclose any medical information revealed by a patient or discovered by a physician in connection with the treatment of a patient. In general, AMA's Code of Medical Ethics states that the information disclosed to a physician during the course of the patient-physician relationship is confidential to the utmost degree. "
State Senator Jim Wilson (D) told Tulsa World, "I know the bill is presented as a need to understand why people get abortions...We already know that. What this bill does is intimidate women."
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 patient reporting requirements was unconstitutional on the basis that it violated state rules requiring legislation address only a single subject. This law also included provisions requiring detailed descriptions of ultrasounds and prohibiting sex-selective abortions, among other provisions.
Also in Oklahoma, state Attorney General agreed earlier this month to a state judge's order to temporarily block enforcement of a different new state law that would require medical professionals to show women an ultrasound image and give women a detailed description of the fetus prior to performing an abortion procedure. This law went into effect immediately following a veto override by the state legislature in let April 2010 and was in effect for most of a week.
The Oklahoma state legislature also overrode the veto of a second anti-choice bill in April 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, Governor 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.
Previously, 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.
Media Resources: Tulsa World 5/12/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 10/7/09, 3/4/10, 5/4/10; American Medical Association