Opinion: Judge bars restrictive Oklahoma abortion law requiring online posting of patient data

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While Californians mull whether a fetus is a person, a state judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of a new Oklahoma law that would require doctors to report detailed information about abortion patients, which would then be posted online.

The law, passed by a solid majority of the Oklahoma Legislature, would require physicians to report such information as age, marital status, race, number of children, education level and the mother’s relationship to the father. It would also require the reason for the abortion, the cost and the type of payment used. Names of patients would not be included in information that would be posted online by the state’s health department, but abortion rights advocates say because Oklahoma is such a small state it would not be difficult to identify some patients. Abortion rights advocates say the law would violate the privacy of patients and is an attempt to dissuade women from seeking abortions.


Republican Oklahoma state Sen. Todd Lamb, who sponsored the legislation, told CNN today that because abortion was “very polarizing,” the law was necessary “to add hard-core evidence to this debate.” The law would also outlaw sex-selective abortions, though Oklahoma abortion foes did not cite any evidence of such behavior in the state.

Dionne Scott of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing two women who are challenging the law, called it “a profound intrusion.” A hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 4.

Oklahoma has been at the forefront of states that have passed restrictive abortion measures. Last month, a judge struck down a 2008 law that imposed what abortion rights supporters say was “the most extreme” ultrasound law in the country. It would have required doctors to perform ultrasounds with screens positioned in mothers’ lines of sight and to describe the developing fetus. Rape victims were not exempt from the law, and if a pregnancy were in the early stages, a vaginal ultrasound would have to be performed to secure a clear image. Seventeen states have ultrasound laws, which require that a woman be offered the opportunity to see the image, but do not require she be positioned in front of the screen.

-- Robin Abcarian

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