Oklahoma Law Will Publicly Post Details of Women’s Abortions Online
On November 1, a law will go into effect in Oklahoma that will post personal details about every abortion performed in the state and post them on the internet. The information will be accessible via a public website, so anyone will be able to access details like the date of the abortion, the county in which the abortion was performed, the age of the mother, her marital status, and her race. Although lawmakers claim that no identifying information will be included, this kind of information could easily be used to pinpoint a woman in a small community.
Proponents of the new law say that it will reduce the number of abortions performed in the state, but I’m not sure how that will work – except by shaming women. “They’re really just trying to frighten women out of having abortions,” Keri Parks, director of external affairs at Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma, told Lynn Harris, who wrote about this Wednesday for Broadsheet. The law’s defenders claim that the information will be posted online for “academic” research, but the Center for Reproductive Rights points out that it will be nearly impossible to use the information for that purpose.
The other part of the law is that doctors who refuse to provide this information will face criminal sanctions and loss of their medical license – even though this feels to me like a violation of medical ethics and doctor-patient confidentiality. It also gives doctors a lot more paperwork to do.
The questionnaire itself does not seem to have pure scientific or sociological research-gathering in mind, as evidenced by questions like “Did the fetus receive anesthetic?” or whether “there was an infant born alive as a result of the abortion.” Additionally, the website will cost upwards of “$281,285 the first year and $256,285 each subsequent year”, according to the Tulsa World News. So not only does the website violate privacy, it also will be an enormous money sink in the middle of a recession.
The bill also makes sex-selective abortion illegal, which is another subject entirely. And although I personally am against sex-selective abortion, I agree with Feminists for Choice, who say that “the real problem lies in the government stepping in and placing restrictions on the ‘right’ reasons for a woman to seek an abortion. It would not be a far step to assume that if the government can restrict the reasons for receiving and/or assisting in the process of an abortion, it could just as easily continue to build on these restrictions until we basically outlaw any and all reasons for seeking an abortion.”
Luckily, the Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging on the law that it “covers more than one subject” (not that it violates basic civil rights, but I guess I’ll take whatever loophole strikes this law down). This may seem like a bizarre lawsuit, but it worked before, when in 2008 Oklahoma almost became the proud owner of a law that required women to have an ultrasound and have the fetus described to her before she could proceed with an abortion. Hopefully the lawsuit will be successful – otherwise, best not to move to Oklahoma.
Photo courtesy of flickr.com/photos/73837517@N00/3360085860/