By Gina Liggett
Oklahoma legislators have gone hog-wild in an orgy of anti-abortion bill-writing this session. Eight -- EIGHT bills interfering with a woman's right to abortion passed, four of which were vetoed by Oklahoma Governor, Brad Henry. But Religious Right lawmakers, including anti-abortion Democrats, succeeded in overriding three of the four vetoes.
Restricting Abortion Any Way They Can
The vetoed bills attack abortion rights in wide-ranging ways.
One bill requires a woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound within an hour of the procedure and have its findings explained to her. Another requires women seeking abortion services and the abortion providers to fill out a lengthy questionnaire and have its findings reported statistically on a state website. Another would ban wrongful life lawsuits against doctors who withhold information that could cause a woman to seek an abortion. These three vetoed bills were overridden by the Legislature. Of the 4th veto, legislators will not attempt an override a bill that would restrict insurance coverage of abortions (but sponsors may resurrect that bill next year).
The Anti-Abortion Gestapo
One particularly forcible bill would require women to have an ultrasound within one hour of requesting an abortion and be compelled to listen to a detailed description of the fetus. Even women impregnated by rape/incest would be included!
How is this to be accomplished, I wonder: by strapping down women's arms, holding their eyes open with toothpicks and placing headphones on at full volume? Fortunately, this coercive law is on hold due to a legal challenge by The Center for Reproductive Rights.
Public Health Hogwash
I'd like to highlight another overridden bill that disguises itself as a public health measure. Using classic public health vernacular, Sen. Clark Jolley, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said the bill is meant to understand why women are choosing to end their pregnancies. Tony Lauinger, state chairman for Oklahomans for Life, said the measure attempts to get accurate information about abortions performed in the state: "We are very appreciative of the pro-life action taken by the Senate. It is often said abortion is safe, legal and rare. This law seeks to gauge the accuracy of that statement." Sen. Jolley adds "This is about gathering data so we can prevent future need for women to face this choice."
If Oklahoma lawmakers were really concerned about public health priorities of their state, they need look no further than their own State Health Department which was assigned the task of prioritizing and solving Oklahoma's biggest public health problems. Because Oklahoma ranks 49th in the U.S. in health rankings, there is plenty of work to do.
Oklahoma's biggest health problems are heart disease (top in the nation), smoking (ranked 36th in the nation), obesity (ranked 6th), and infant health (higher infant mortality rate than national average). Preventing unintended pregnancies is also a goal, but that can be best accomplished by preventing pregnancy (you know, birth control--ever heard of it?) Reducing abortions is not going to affect pregnancy rates. The Anti-Abortion Gestapo can just stop crying alligator tears of concern for women's health. Women's health and rights are not their real concern, otherwise they would be worried about the death and complication rates resulting from abortions made illegal by their lawmaking.
Wear Yourself Out With the Questionnaire from HB 3284
Check out the questionnaire and imagine if you would like the government requiring you to answer the following deeply personal questions:
Reasons seeking abortion (hidden down in #15 of questionnaire); date of abortion; county performed; age of mother; marital status; race; years of education; state/country of residence; number of previous pregnancies; number of live births; miscarriages; induced abortions; gestational age of fetus based on last menstrual period; specific method of abortion; infant status resulting from abortion; was CPR of fetus undertaken; how long did aborted fetus survive; use of anesthesia to mother and fetus--what type and how administered; disposal of fetal tissue; reasons seeking an abortion (would it dramatically change the life of mother, interfere with her education, interfere with job, has other children, cannot afford another child, is unmarried, is a student, can't afford child care, can't meet basic needs of life, is unemployed, can't leave job to care for baby, would need new place to live, poor spousal support, spouse unemployed, on welfare, doesn't want to be single mother, relationship problems, uncertain of relationship to father, doesn't want to marry father, not in a relationship, may break up with father of child, mother feels she's too immature, spouse is abusive, mother doesn't want others to know she's had sex or is pregnant, husband wants abortion, health of mother or fetus at risk, parents want abortion, emotional health of mother at risk, wants child of different sex, life of mother at risk, pregnancy due to rape, pregnancy due to incest, mother declined to give reason); method of payment; insurance; fees collected; time fee collected; MD specialty; ultrasound used during or before or after; was ultrasound vaginal, abdominal or both; name of person performing ultrasound; referring physician; statute info provided to mother; did mother get printed materials; was gestational age 20 weeks or more and if so, was mother given appropriate info on the statutes pertaining to that.So this extremely nosy public health approach to restricting abortion is lot of diversion from the real public health problems of Oklahoma. It is instead a method of intimidating doctors and patients into foregoing abortion (and thereby raising the statistics of unintended pregnancies, contrary to their own official public health priorities).
The only relevant questions an abortion provider should ask a patient are: "do you understand the procedure and its risks, and do you consent?" Kind of like Lasik surgery to improve your vision. Why a woman seeks an abortion is no government's or religious do-gooder's god-dammed business. The decision begins and ends with her.
The anti-choice Gestapo in Oklahoma wants to eliminate the right to abortion because of religious beliefs. But in reality it is the woman who has full rights over her body, her pregnancy, her soul and her being; and these rights cannot be overridden by a fetus.
So the nosy-Ninnies of the Oklahoma Legislature and the anti-choice lobby should just be content with worrying about themselves--and maybe their waistlines and cholesterol levels.