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Lawsuit Filed to Block Enforcement of New Oklahoma Ultrasound Law

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed a lawsuit yesterday to stop the enforcement of a new Oklahoma state law that extends existing ultrasound requirements for women seeking an abortion. The law in question requires medical professionals to show women the ultrasound image and give women a detailed description of the fetus.

The 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 suit was filed by the CRR 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, the suit seeks a temporary restraining order that would block enforcement of the new law, which went into effect immediately following the veto override yesterday.

Early in March, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the February ruling of a state District Court saying the law was unconstitutional on the basis that it violates state rules requiring legislation address only a single subject.

The bill was vetoed last Friday by state Governor Brad Henry, but then the Oklahoma state legislature overrode the veto this week. Governor Henry told CNN he rejected 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 Oklahoma state legislature also overrode the veto of a second anti-choice bill that prohibits women from suing doctors who intentionally withhold information or provide misleading or inaccurate information about a pregnancy, reported the Associated Press. Henry responded to the override votes and told the Associated Press, "both laws will be challenged and, in all likelihood, overturned by the courts as unconstitutional...I fear this entire exercise will ultimately be a waste of taxpayers' time and money."

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 ultrasound provision was unconstitutional on the basis that it violates state rules requiring legislation address only a single subject.

In addition to the two vetoes, Henry did sign one anti-choice bill into law Friday. This law 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, reported the New York Times. Henry also signed three 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: Center for Reproductive Rights Press Release 4/27/10; New York Times 4/27/10; CNN 4/27/10; Associated Press 4/27/10, 4/27/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 4/27/10, 3/31/10

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