District Judge Brian Dixon ruled the law is unconstitutional and unenforceable because it relates only to patients and doctors dealing with abortions and no other medical care. Enforcement of the law had been blocked shortly after it was passed via veto-override in 2010. The law would have forced a woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound, then have the image placed in front of her and described in detail, even if she had objected.
“The court has resoundingly affirmed what should not be a matter of controversy at all—that women have both a fundamental right to make their own choices about their reproductive health, and that government has no place in their decisions,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Today’s decision adds to the growing momentum of a nationwide backlash against the overreaching of lawmakers hostile to women, their doctors, and their rights.”
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed Nova Health Systems v. Pruitt with the District Court of Oklahoma County in April 2010 on behalf of Nova Health Systems and Dr. Larry Burns, two of the three abortion providers in the state. The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice also joined the case as a plaintiff.
The lawsuit argued the statute violated the principles of medical ethics by requiring physicians to provide unnecessary and unwanted services to patients, while patronizingly discounting a woman’s ability to make decisions about her pregnancy. A district court judge granted a temporary restraining order against the law in May 2010.
Then-Governor Brad Henry had vetoed the measure in large part because he did not want the state to incur the legal expenses associated with defending an obviously unconstitutional bill.
The ruling now sets the stage for an appellate battle. Oklahoma is in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has already affirmed a similar bill in Texas. A split in the circuits would all-but guarantee Supreme Court review, providing anti-choice advocates yet another opportunity to chip away at the guarantees of Roe v. Wade.
Photo from steakpinball via flickr.