The Oklahoma legislature is one of the most hostile elective bodies to women’s rights in the nation. Last year, it passed a far-right measure that would have collected personal details about every single abortion performed in the state and posted them on a public website. Although the questionnaire would not have asked for name, address, or “any information specifically identifying the patient,” as Feminists for Choice pointed out, the questions could easily be used to identify a woman in a small community.
After protests and national attention, an Oklahoma County district judge ruled the law unconstitutional in February, saying that it violated the “single-subject” rule, which requires that laws address only one topic at a time. As the Tulsa World explained, it was the second time in recent years that the legislature had had its overreaching ruled unconstitutional:
The law also would have banned abortions based on a woman’s gender preference for her child; created new responsibilities for state health agencies to gather and analyze abortion data and enforce abortion restrictions; and redefined a number of abortion-related terms used in Oklahoma law. [...]
This is the second time in two years that the Oklahoma legislature has tried to restrict abortion in the state by bundling numerous provisions into one bill. In September, the Oklahoma District Court struck down another state law imposing various abortion restrictions, including the most extreme ultrasound requirement in the country, ruling that it violated the state’s single subject rule.
Unfortunately, the rulings didn’t mean that these provisions were history; it just meant that the legislature had to go back and pass a separate bill for each anti-choice measure, instead of bundling them all together. Lawmakers could still restrict women’s rights; it might just take a bit longer.
That’s exactly what the Oklahoma legislature has decided to do. One recently passed measure would “prohibit ‘wrongful life’ lawsuits against doctors who withhold information about a fetus or pregnancy that could cause a woman to seek an abortion.” A USA Today editorial explains the other measure:
The law mandates that the screen be turned so the patient can see the ultrasound and orders doctors to describe the size of the fetus and any viewable organs and limbs. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. It also limits who can do the ultrasound and which technology can be used — issues lawmakers are ill-equipped to decide. If doctors veer from these mandates, they can be stopped from performing abortions and sued. The law intrudes far deeper into people’s medical decisions than anything in the controversial new federal health care law.
Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry (D) vetoed these two bills, but the legislature overrode him. However, the Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a lawsuit arguing that the ultrasound law “intrudes upon a patient’s privacy and forces a woman to hear information that may not be relevant to her medical care.” Oklahoma’s attorney general has agreed to temporarily block implementation of this law until the court hearing.
Yesterday, the Oklahoma House returned to the website bill and passed it, 88-8, with “little discussion and no debate.” It now heads to the Senate, where it is also likely to pass. ThinkProgress contacted Henry’s office and asked whether he would veto the this measure as well, but we have not yet received a response.
Last year, we spoke with Oklahoma state Rep. Jeannie McDaniel (D) — one of the eight lawmakers to vote against the Statistical Abortion Reporting Act — who said that in each of the five sessions she’s been a lawmaker, “there has been a bill introduced in the Oklahoma legislature regarding women’s reproductive rights. … Each year, it creeps a little more toward taking away women’s freedoms, more restrictions between the doctors.” Recently, Anita Fream, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma, spoke to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and said that the state needs “national help” in bringing attention to the assault on women’s rights in the state. “We need everyone speaking out no matter where they are from,” she said.