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Oklahoma, OK?

22 Apr, 10 | by Iain Brassington

Roe v Wade ensured that women in the US had a constitutionally-guaranteed right to abortion protection from interference in decisions to terminate their pregnancy.  What it didn’t do, though, was ensure that women could access an abortion easily.  This means that there’s a number of means by which laws can be passed that make it extraordinarily difficult to access abortions, and which are still within the letter of the law.  A Bill in Ohio a couple of years ago, for example, required that the father’s approval be secured, even when the father was unknown. 

Oklahoma is in the prosess of dealing with a clutch of bills that will, stricto sensu, maintain a woman’s right to an abortion, but which also disincentivise it.  The NPWF reports that

One bill (HB 2780), approved 35-11, would require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound within one hour before the procedure and listen to an explanation of the ultrasound’s findings. The bill would require doctors to use a vaginal probe in cases where it would provide a clearer picture of the fetus than a regular ultrasound. Another bill (HB 3075), approved 39-6, would require abortion clinics to post signs stating that women cannot be forced to undergo an abortion. In addition, the Senate voted 35-11 for a bill (HB 2656) that would prevent so-called “wrongful life” and “wrongful birth” lawsuits. All three measures now go to Gov. Brad Henry (D). The two other bills the Senate approved Monday now return to the state House. One measure (HB 3284) would require women seeking an abortion to provide detailed information that will be posted without their names on a state-run Web site. The bill would require women to provide information about their marital status, education level, method of abortion, reason for abortion, means of payment and previous experiences with abortion or miscarriage. The bill was approved 35-10. The final bill (HB 3290), passed 35-11, would ban coverage of abortion services by plans participating in the state insurance exchanges to be created under the recently approved national health reform law.  A lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights said that if the bills become law, Oklahoma would have some of the nation’s strictest abortion requirements

It seems fairly obvious to me that these bills are all pretty much utterly indefensible.  The ultrasound requirement, though, catches my eye as being a uniquely odious member of this generally distasteful group, both in its content (requiring as it does that women have an unnecessary and potentially invasive medical procedure as a condition of accessing another, quite different, procedure) and its form (which is a licence for emotional blackmail).  The provision that the woman can look away from the monitor is a sick joke – she can’t help but to hear the medic describing the foetus; and that this is all dressed up in terms of providing for fully informed consent is beneath contempt.

It looks like Oklahoma may soon be the state where you’re allowed an abortion, but only if you accept as a quid pro quo a regime of physical and emotional violation, moralistic hectoring, and administrative obstruction.

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  • John O’Malley

    I agree. These measures (especially the ultrasound one which is particularly nasty) are not clinically defensible and are just ways for the pro-life (pro-life in the sense you agree or in utero so not yet able to agree with the movement)lot to get their own way.
    However, it does raise the issue that many people who harp on about ‘human rights’ forget. It is all very well stating that you have a right to x (as in Life of Brian where a man has a right to be pregnant) but that statement is useless unless there are methods and processes for you to exercise that right. What Roe v Wade failed to do is enforce that right so we therefore have the present nonsense. An arguement against a written constitution?

  • Michael

    Roe v Wade ensured that women in the US had a constitutionally-guaranteed right to abortion.

    “the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.” That right necessarily includes the right of a woman to decide whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

    Majority Opinion, Roe v. Wade

    Roe v. Wade does not establish a constitutionally guaranteed right to abortion. What it guarantees is that the decision to terminate a pregnancy be free from unjustified governmental intrusion. A right to an abortion would mean that the state has some obligation to provide and allow for access to an abortion. But a right to be free from government interference does not require that the state act. It seems as if the rest of your post relies on this distinction, but then the first line is simply mistaken.

    A right to free public education, for instance, would require that the state provide free public education to everyone; but a right to make your own choices about education does not require that the state provide it.

  • http://www.law.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/staff/iain_brassington/default.htm Iain Brassington

    Fair point: I’ll ninja-edit the OP.

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