Oklahoma Law Requires Details of Every Abortion Performed Be Published Online

Yesterday, our colleagues at Jezebel wrote about a new Oklahoma law
that will require the details of every abortion to be posted on a public
website. Proponents say this will prevent abortion — apparently by
shaming and burdening women and doctors.

Anna N. wrote:

The law (which you can look at here
— it’s HR 1595) mandates that a 34-item questionnaire be filled out by
abortion providers for each procedure. The questionnaire doesn’t
include the woman’s name or "any information specifically identifying
the patient," but it does ask for age, race, level of education,
marital status, number of previous pregnancies, and the county in which
the abortion was performed, information which opponents of the bill
argue would be enough to identify a woman in a small town. The
questionnaire also asks about the mother’s reason for the abortion, her
method of payment, and even what type of insurance she has, as well as
whether the fetus received anaesthetic and whether there was "an infant
born alive as a result of the abortion."

Lynn Harris, quoted in the Jezebel piece, writes,

According to proponents of the law, this extensive abortion data —
which will include the reason the procedure was sought — will help
health officials prevent future abortions. Yeah, I can see that.
Because the requirement itself would scare the shit out of me.

Harris also points out that the way the data is collected will make
it very difficult to use in any scientific or sociological research.

But, Harris goes on:

It’s unlikely that those who devised the questionnaire intended it
to be used for objective science. Its questions (especially those
related to ultrasound and providing the patient with written materials
prior to abortion) seem geared toward figuring out the best way to keep
women from aborting. And the questionnaire itself looks like one more
way of shaming women out of the abortion process. It may also deter
doctors, who now have a new and very long piece of paperwork to
complete. As if that weren’t enough, the law also bans sex-selective

The Center for Reproductive Rights is working with others in Oklahoma to challenge the law.  Last week, former Oklahoma state representative Wanda Stapleton joined Shawnee, Oklahoma resident Lora Joyce Davis in filing a legal challenge against the law, charging it will:

[I]mpose a host
of restrictions on women’s access to abortion and cost the state over a
quarter of a million dollars a year to enforce. The plaintiffs are
represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights and
argue that the state legislature overstepped its authority by enacting
a statute that will both violate the Oklahoma’s Constitution and waste
taxpayers’ money.

CRR stated that:

The Oklahoma Constitution requires that laws address only one subject
at a time, but the new measure covers four distinct subjects, including
redefining a number of abortion-related terms used in the Oklahoma
code; banning sex-selective abortion; requiring doctors who perform
abortions or treat patients who have had abortions to report extensive
patient information to the state health department; and creating new
responsibilities for the State Health Department, the State Board of
Medical Licensure and Supervision, and the State Board of Osteopathic
Examiners relating to gathering and analyzing abortion data and
enforcing abortion restrictions. According to the legislature’s own
estimates, implementing the new reporting requirements will cost the
state $281,285 during the first year and $256,285 each subsequent year. 

In filing the suit, Stapleton stated:

As taxpayers in this state, we expect our representatives to
follow the state constitution, not pick and choose what measures suit
them, then pass unconstitutional legislation that shortchanges their
constituents by a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

The 2009 statute is the Oklahoma legislature’s second attempt in the
last two years to restrict abortion by bundling numerous provisions
into one bill. Last month, a state district court struck down a 2008 abortion ultrasound law that included, among other abortion restrictions, the most extreme
ultrasound requirement in the country and a requirement that would have
limited the availability of abortions performed with the medical
abortion pill. The court in that case ruled that the statute included
too many disparate topics and therefore violated the state


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  • catseye71352

    Isn’t this requirement a gross violation of HIPAA statutes?

    Catseye  ( (|) )

  • ahunt

    What is the compelling state interest here?

  • ahunt

    Not sure, Catseye. My understanding is that HIPAA protects identities, but not necessarily other information.

    My question is whether or not it is constitutional for the state to demand information regarding the REASONS why an individual is engaging in lawful activity before the individual may engage in that lawful activity. Could this really hold up in the High Court?

  • ahunt

    HIPAA regs paraphrased via DKOS:

    My “protected health information,” including my demographic information, collected from me and created or received by my physician, another health care provider, a health plan, my employer or a health care clearinghouse. This protected health information relates to my past, present or future physical or mental health or condition and identifies me, or there is a reasonable basis to believe the information may identify me.

    General consensus over at DKOS is that this law does not pass constitutional muster.

  • catseye71352

    It would seem that all the info Oklahoma is demanding could be put together to figure out identities, which was probably the whole point of this inanity of a law.

    Catseye  ( (|) )

  • ahunt

    Just reviewed the relevant section of the bill and…WOW!

    I find it difficult to believe that this is constitutional. Are there no legal scholars among us?

    If so, my first question is, where does the state get the authority to compel anonymous disclosure of the most intimate details of one’s private life, for purposes of collecting methodologically useless data for…STUDIES? By WHOM?!

  • ack

    This is also particularly dangerous for women in abusive relationships. If a victim wants to abort but does not want her abuser to know, this law puts her in danger.

    It could also be used as another tool for abusers to terrorize their victims if he is trying to get her pregnant. (“If you get pregnant and get an abortion, I’ll know.”)

  • liberaldem

    After reading about this law here and on Huffington Post I went home and immediately wrote a check to the Center for Reproductive Rights in support of their work to overturn this intrusive, punitive legislation.

  • princess-rot

    I’m no legal eagle, but even a cursory reading of the bill’s full text demonstrates that its purpose is unconstitutional. We already have reliable statistics on abortion from the likes of the AGI, PP, and verified by federal bodies like Disease Control. These statistics are used by both pro-lifers and pro-choicers, and anyone who is a regular commenter here is probably familiar with them, so I won’t preach to the choir. These statistics ARE available publically, but they are available only in the aggregate, and not separately, as this bill is seeking to do. Individual abortion information is not accessible to the public on a website, since that would violate HIPPA.

    I can see a few good intents in it, however misguided, that could be used to sway people on the fence. It could be used to pinpoint what groups have the most abortions and the most poverty, and try to help them. But, given the machinations of the Religious Right, and how OK stands in terms of poverty, race relations, education and progressiveness (hint: it’s bad) I’m convinced its not about help, but the threat of public shaming. These bills (remember OK has the strictest ultrasound and waiting-period laws of all red states, and has had its personhood bill shot down numerous times) often have a veneer of false concern for women that thinly disguises a deeper agenda, so I’m leery of giving the wingnuts too much credit.

    Even without the name and address identifiers, in a relatively small community someone with enough time on their hands could easily use this database to “out” a woman for having the procedure. For example, a 26-yo African-American with a degree from New Jersey. Quite likely a very small percentile of people in a small Oklahoma town fit that description. Even by age, in a small community (of like, 350) that could boil down to 50 to 100 18-30 year olds. Suddenly there’s a lot of suspicion going around. As ack said, its also dangerous for those in already abusive situations, and could quickly turn violent. But what’s murdering or beating a few heathen sluts if a few more baybeez are born, eh? Ergh. This bill also seeks to catalogue those who have miscarriages (always called spontaneous abortion in the medical profession) or procedures for inviable pregnancies such as ectopic pregnancies or D&Cs for incomplete natural miscarriages at any stage (which, if left untreated can quickly turn septic). Even though these things are not “elective” and therefore “bad”, to the wingnut mind, it is still punishment for the women. That alone shows the extent of the woman-hatred.

    Docs may also shy away from treating pregnancy complications or women seeking abortion because of the stigma, and of course, the ever-present threat of harm. The text of the bill defines that a “person” is present at conception, so it’s also a backdoor way of sneaking in personhood laws behind constituents’ backs. We’ve already discussed and understand how fucking irrational, misogynist, and restrictive “personhood” is, so I needn’t go into that again. All women are pre-pregnant, zygotes are children, let’s hold funerals for periods, blah, blah, blah.

  • hatmaker510

    Will these people stop at nothing, cross any line, stoop to any low to keep women from having full control of our own bodies? Now publicly shaming women is acceptable?
    It has been my experience that most extreme anti-choice beliefs are based on religious beliefs – beliefs that end up getting turned into laws by the Religious Right.
    Don’t misunderstand – I don’t begrudge anyone their personal spiritual beliefs. However, enacting laws based solely on religious beliefs is wrong on so many levels. How would politicians/Religious Right currently in power respond if the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses (like no blood transfusions) were turned into law? Would they see the problem then? Shaming women publicly and strong-arming them doesn’t seem very christian-like to me.
    Anti-choicers want to force women to carry a pregnancy to term-to be a parent-yet women can’t be trusted to decide when she’s not ready to be a parent? How does that make sense?

    On Rachel Maddow’s report of this story, she reported that in 2003 Kansas passed a similar law. Apparently their "abortion report" got leaked to none other than Bill O’Reilly (of Fox/Faux News).  

    This law is clearly intended to stop both women and doctors from getting/performing a legal medical procedure.  There are already too few new doctors willing to perform abortions. 

    I don’t live in Oklahoma, but I urge those who do to write/contact ALL of your representatives.  Because if this law isn’t stopped it will start happening in other states.  These restrictions must end. 

    Finally, thanks, Liberaldem – great idea about donations to CRR.  I’m broke like everyone, but this is just too important to ignore.   

    Melissa in Michigan