Oklahoma's Anti-Abortion Bill a Setback for Both Pro-Choice and Pro-Life Advocates

11/17/2011 09:02 am ET

The Oklahoma legislature has passed an onerous anti-abortion bill that
is poised to become state law. State Senate bill 1878 passed both
houses and is sitting on Governor Henry's desk. He has until Thursday
to sign or veto it. Despite the lobbying efforts of the Oklahoma State
Medical Association and advocates for women's health, there are
currently not enough votes to sustain a veto in either house.

The bill combines many new abortion regulations. The most invasive and
unprecedented provisions of the bill relate to mandates for an
ultrasound before a pregnancy termination can be done. The bill states
that either a transabdominal or transvaginal transducer, whichever
gives the clearer picture of the embryo, must be used. For early
terminations that will mandate an ultrasound done with a probe placed
in the vagina. There is no provision for the woman to opt out of this
procedure. My main concerns about the bill are the following:

1) The bill dictates how doctors obtain informed consent in a way that
does not conform to medically-accepted practice. Current state law
already requires the doctor to refer patients to information about
development of an embryo or fetus twenty-four hours before a pregnancy
termination. The website is one required
resource. She must also be notified about facilities that will offer
her a free ultrasound.

2) This compels a physician to perform an invasive, vaginal
procedure -- not for the benefit of the patient, and possibly against
her wishes -- before the requested medical procedure can be done.

3) The fines for failure to follow the requirements begin at $10,000
go up to $100,000 or more for subsequent violations. The highest fines
for negligent homicide or driving under the influence in Oklahoma are

4) The bill defines "unprofessional conduct" if a physician does not
perform this unnecessary procedure and suggests that the medical board
may remove the physician's license. This violates the standard medical
practice that any patient has the right to refuse medical procedures
or treatment.

This bill dictates how a doctor obtains informed consent, violates the
patient's right to refuse unwanted medical interventions, and places
disproportionate punishments on physicians who do not comply.

Pro-choice and pro-life advocates alike should be appalled by this
level of government intrusion. I hope that national attention to this
outlandish regulation might encourage a veto by our Governor. Women's
advocates in other states need to watch for similar attempts by their
own legislatures.

Note: Since this post was originally written, a governor veto on this
legislation has been overturned by the state legislature.