Friday, October 17, 2008

Anti-Choice Oklahoma Law Challenged

The Center for Reproductive Rights has sued Oklahoma over a law which would require doctors to perform ultrasounds on women, turn the screen towards them and verbally describe the fetus prior to performing an abortion. The law is set to go into effect on November 1.
In the lawsuit filed Thursday in Oklahoma County District Court, the Center for Reproductive Rights says that the requirement intrudes on privacy, endangers health and assaults dignity.

The law, set to go into effect on Nov. 1, would make Oklahoma the fourth state to require that ultrasounds be performed before a woman can have an abortion and that the ultrasounds be made available to the patient for viewing, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a health research organization based in Washington. The other states are Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Backers of the lawsuit say Oklahoma is the only state to require that the ultrasound screen be turned toward the woman during the procedure and that the doctor describe what is on the screen, including various dimensions of the fetus.

Elizabeth Nash, public policy associate with the Guttmacher Institute, said the Oklahoma law appeared unique in that its intent was that the woman seeking an abortion view the ultrasound images.

Lawmakers overrode Gov. Brad Henry’s veto to pass the anti-abortion legislation in April. Mr. Henry, a Democrat, said he vetoed the bill because it did not exempt victims of rape or incest from the ultrasound requirement.

State Senator Todd Lamb, a Republican, said supporters of the law hoped that it would curtail abortions in the state.

“I introduced the bill because I wanted to encourage life in society,” Mr. Lamb said. “In Oklahoma, society is on the side of life.”
The problem with this legislation is that, like most anti-choice legislation, it places political considerations above considerations for the woman's health and emotional state. Supporters of this law seem to be openly indicate that their sole purpose here is to lower the number of abortions, not to make women safer. In other words, there is no health reasoning whatsoever behind this rule, and yet the state government wishes to impose it anyway. When doctors have their medical practices controlled by government in ways that have nothing to do with protecting the health of patients, everyone loses. Patients are treated with disrespect, privacy is violated, and it's frankly just far too much government in our lives.

If the backers of this law really want to prevent abortions, why aren't they putting their efforts towards preventing unplanned pregnancy by promoting contraception? It's a proven, far more effective solution -- and one that supports women's health rather than ideology.

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