Oklahoma’s Abortion Two-Step

Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewk100/3948484675/">AndrewWK100</a>

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Last week, Mother Jones reported how Oklahoma legislators ratified two of the country’s toughest constraints on safe legal abortion. Now, the state’s attorney general is reluctantly blocking enforcement of one of those laws; he says the delay will give Oklahoma’s favored anti-choice attorney time to mount her defense of the regulation. But thanks to that attorney’s public comments, the state’s case just got a lot messier, and it may have to jettison one of its draconian laws to save the other one.

According to the AP, Attorney General Drew Edmonson let a state judge block a law that requires all women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound first. Not just any ultrasound: “The law requires doctors to use a vaginal probe, which provides a clearer picture of the fetus than a regular ultrasound, and to describe the fetus in detail, including its dimensions, whether arms, legs and internal organs are visible and whether there is cardiac activity,” AP reports. “The law also requires doctors to turn a screen depicting the ultrasound images toward the woman so she can view them.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights sought the injunction as it prepares to challenge the law in court. Edmonson is using the 45-day delay to consult with law school professor Teresa Collett, who represented Oklahoma in its unsuccessful bid to defend a similarly worded 2008 law.

Oh, yeah—did we mention that Collett is running for Congress in Minnesota as a Republican this fall?

It’s strange territory for Collett, a self-identified libertarian who defended Ron Paul and is campaigning “to cut government way back,” but has no problem with nanny-state expansions of government power over marriage, gay rights, and medical care. Stranger still was how she defended the ultrasound law to the AP, arguing that it had the patient’s best interests at heart. “It would be remarkable if a women would undergo a medical procedure and a doctor would not have an obligation to describe the procedure and the results of that procedure to the patient,” she said.

But the other law passed by Oklahoma legislators does precisely that: Relieve the doctor of any obligation to describe an ultrasound’s results to the patient. That law “grants immunity from malpractice lawsuits for doctors who refuse to tell parents that their child will be born with a birth defect.” Which should concern every parent in the state, as we wrote last week:

So now, in Oklahoma, even if you have no intention of terminating your pregnancy, your doctor is under no obligation to inform you if gastroschisis is present in your fetus—a simple sonogram-based diagnosis. He doesn’t have to tell you that the remainder of your pregnancy is critical, that your baby’s risk of stillbirth just increased 10 percent, that the child will probably be born abnormally small, that counting the number of your fetus’ movements may make all the difference. He may schedule a premature delivery, but won’t have to tell you why. He doesn’t have to tell you that your life will require a radical reordering after birth. He doesn’t need to tell you if your child may die on the operating table on his birthday, or be permanently debilitated and ostracized. He doesn’t have to tell you that if you lack good insurance, or any insurance, your family—that child included—could soon be financially ruined.

When Collett defends the ultrasound law by outlining a doctor’s obligations to truthfulness, she appears to consign the “remarkable” birth-defects law to a quick death. The AP leaves little doubt of that: “She said state lawmakers required abortion providers to describe the ultrasound’s images because of some doctors’ ‘unusual failure’ to pass along the information to pregnant women.” Unusual failures which, no doubt, would be much more frequent if the birth-defects law stands.

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

LET’S TALK ABOUT OPTIMISM FOR A CHANGE

Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

Mother Jones did. We just merged with the Center for Investigative Reporting, bringing the radio show Reveal, the documentary film team CIR Studios, and Mother Jones together as one bigger, bolder investigative journalism nonprofit.

And this is the first time we’re asking you to support the new organization we’re building. In “Less Dreading, More Doing,” we lay it all out for you: why we merged, how we’re stronger together, why we’re optimistic about the work ahead, and why we need to raise the First $500,000 in online donations by June 22.

It won’t be easy. There are many exciting new things to share with you, but spoiler: Wiggle room in our budget is not among them. We can’t afford missing these goals. We need this to be a big one. Falling flat would be utterly devastating right now.

A First $500,000 donation of $500, $50, or $5 would mean the world to us—a signal that you believe in the power of independent investigative reporting like we do. And whether you can pitch in or not, we have a free Strengthen Journalism sticker for you so you can help us spread the word and make the most of this huge moment.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate