Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lawsuit filed against ultrasound rule

From today's The Oklahoman:
Group opposes abortion rule on ultrasounds
Opponents say law will shut down Tulsa clinic

Published: October 11, 2008

A Tulsa clinic is challenging a state law that takes effect this fall requiring women to view an ultrasound of their unborn babies before getting an abortion.

The lawsuit, filed late Thursday in Oklahoma County District Court by the Center for Reproductive Rights, contends the law is overly vague and violates women’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

Sen. Todd Lamb, who helped write the law, said the lawsuit is misguided.

"This lawsuit was filed by a pro-abortion fringe group that opposes Oklahoma’s sensible regulations on abortions,” said Lamb, R-Edmond. "Their lawsuit seeks to undo important reforms that provide women with information that helps them give informed consent prior to receiving an abortion.”

Senate Bill 1878, which spurred the lawsuit, was passed into law in April, when legislators overrode Gov. Brad Henry’s veto.

The law goes into effect Nov. 1 and includes a specific regimen for administering the medical abortion pill and legal protection for health care workers who balk at being involved in abortions.

Henry refused to comment on the lawsuit, but his spokesman noted he raised concerns about the legislation with his veto.

Opponents said enforcement of the law would force Tulsa-based Reproductive Services — one of only three clinics in the state that offer abortions — to shut down. The clinic serves more than 200 women each month, according to a news release.

"Anti-choice activists will stop at nothing to prevent a woman from getting an abortion, but trying to manipulate a woman’s decisions about her own life and health goes beyond the pale,” said Stephanie Toti, the lead attorney in the case.

"Governments should stop playing doctor and leave medical determinations to physicians and health decisions to individuals."
Here's an excerpt from the press release by the Center for Reproductive Rights, who calls Oklahoma's new law the "Most Extreme Ultrasound Law in (the) Country":
In Oklahoma, if this law is enforced, Reproductive Services will be forced to close down. The clinic provides more than 200 women abortion services a month. If it shuts down, that means more than 2000 women a year throughout Oklahoma and surrounding states will have no access to abortion.

Nationally, this case has implications because the law at issue is among the first signs that anti-choice legislatures are beginning to take cues from last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003." Should this law be upheld, it could encourage copycat legislation around the country. In Gonzales v. Carhart, a case argued by the Center, the majority reasoned, "[w]hile we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptional to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained. Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow." The argument opened the door to measures based on the assertion that a woman lacks the judgment and independence necessary to make a responsible decision about her own pregnancy; and that abortion causes a woman to suffer mental and physical side effects—a claim recently refuted by an American Psychological Association study. No other state in the country requires a woman to hear the description of an ultrasound image; and Ohio is the only other state that has prohibited use of the ACOG-recommended regimen for medical abortion. Ohio's law is currently being challenged in federal court.
Notice that no mention is made of why "Governments should stop playing doctor and leave medical determinations to physicians and health decisions to individuals" except that it "goes beyond the pale" - in other words, "it simply goes too far".

This does not give me confidence that the Center will prevail in this case.

The moral of this story? It is not just their legal strategy, but their morality which supporters of abortion rights need to question.

Update - Oct 13: The Tulsa World's story about this has received over 100 comments so far.

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