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Oklahoma abortion law overturned

Provisions are struck down that would have required every patient seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound and a doctor's description of the fetus.

August 19, 2009|Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma judge on Tuesday overturned a state law that required women seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound and a doctor's description of the fetus.

Oklahoma County District Judge Vicki Robertson said the law violated constitutional requirements that a legislative measure deal only with one subject. She did not rule on the validity of the ultrasound provisions.

Her ruling also overturned provisions in the law that allowed doctors and other healthcare providers to refuse to take part in an abortion for moral or religious reasons, required certain signs to be placed in clinics where abortions are performed, and prohibited wrongful-life lawsuits arguing that a disabled child would have been better off aborted.

Special Assistant Atty. Gen. Teresa Collett said she would meet with state officials to discuss whether to appeal. The law was passed in 2008, but legal action has prevented it from going into effect.

A Tulsa clinic filed suit in October challenging the ultrasound provision, arguing that the law was unconstitutionally vague and was not clear about what a doctor should tell a woman undergoing the ultrasound.

Stephanie Toti, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said Oklahoma was the only state to mandate that a physician both conduct an ultrasound and describe the images to the patient.

"The ultrasound provision takes away a patient's choice about whether or not to view an ultrasound, and it requires physicians to provide information to their patients that the physicians do not believe is medically necessary," Toti said. "It's an affront to women's autonomy and decision-making power, and it's also an intrusion to the physician-patient relationship."

But Collett argued that all of the provisions in the law related to "the taking of human life."

She also said the statute clearly stated that a doctor should tell a woman about the dimensions of the fetus, as well as the presence of a heartbeat, arms, legs and internal organs.

"Common medical practice is to require doctors to provide patients information that's necessary for them to make informed decisions," Collett said. "We don't think abortion should be any exception."

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