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.