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    Update: Judge Rules Oklahoma Abortion Law Unconstitutional

    Last year, Oklahoma passed a controversial new abortion law (pdf); one of the law’s provisions required the online posting of personal details of women who had undergone the procedure, a violation of the women’s privacy rights. An Oklahoma County District Court judge has ruled as unconstitutional the Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act (Oklahoma House Bill 1595), but not for privacy or civil liberties reasons. Instead, Judge Daniel Owens said the law violated the state’s “single-subject rule,” which requires that each law cover only one subject, ABC News reports. The lawsuit by the Center for Reproductive Rights said the Act had four subjects: redefining multiple abortion-related terms used in Oklahoma law; banning gender-selective abortion; establishing reporting requirements; and creating new responsibilities for the state Department of Health, state Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision, and state Board of Osteopathic Examiners.

    There are several controversial provisions in the Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act, including several reporting requirements. One of them mandated doctors require women seeking abortions to fill out a highly invasive questionnaire, then pass the information to the state health department. Doctors not fulfilling the Act’s requirements faced criminal sanctions and loss of their medical licenses.

    The state would have created a new Web site to publish answers to the required questionnaire. The 37 questions include:

    1. Date of abortion
    2. Country in which abortion is performed
    3. Age of mother
    4, Marital status of mother
    5. Race of mother
    6. Years of education of mother
    7. State or foreign country of residence of mother
    8. Total number of previous pregnancies of the mother […]
    15. Reason given for abortion, which could include “Pregnancy was result of forcible rape” or “Pregnancy was result of incest” [… to No. 37]

    Though the law prohibited the publication of the women’s “name, address or any other identifying information,” it would be especially easy in a small town for people to determine who had an abortion. An intimate decision such as this should never be published. It violates the woman’s right to privacy and that of her family. It might put the woman or her family in danger of not just verbal attacks but physical ones.

    Another issue that should be noted is the financial factor. These days, when states are running enormous budget deficits and cutting funding for schools and police departments, among other things, Oklahoma would have designated money to establish this program and Web site. An earlier report by CNN noted, “According to state estimates, the Oklahoma State Department of Health will spend roughly $250,000 a year to carry out the law.” One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit to overturn the Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act noted, “said money spent on women in ‘personal crisis’ could be better spent addressing Oklahoma’s high teen pregnancy rate — which is the sixth highest in the nation, according to a 2009 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” ABC News reports.

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