Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Oklahoma Legisture overrides veto, enacts restrictive anti-abortion measures

If you're a woman in Oklahoma, your choice about what to do with your own body, to the extent that you have any choice at all, will now be manipulated to the point where you don't really have any at all. Here's the NYT:

The Oklahoma Legislature voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to override vetoes of two highly restrictive abortion measures, one making it a law that women undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before having an abortion.

Though other states have passed similar measures forcing women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma's law goes further, requiring a doctor or technician to set up the monitor where the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

The second measure passed into law Tuesday protects doctors from malpractice suits if they decide not to inform the parents of a unborn baby that the fetus has birth defects. The intent of the bill is to prevent parents from later suing doctors who withhold information to try to influence them against having an abortion.

Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, vetoed both bills last week. The ultrasound law, he said, was flawed because it did not exempt rape and incest victims and was an unconstitutional intrusion into a woman’s privacy. He painted the other measure as immoral.

Gov. Henry is right, but he didn't go far enough. The first bill isn't just flawed, it's downright reprehensible. Its intent is not to provide women with more information, it's to guilt them into not having an abortion, to restrict their choice through outright manipulation. As for the second bill, it's awful as well. It basically allows doctors to lie to their patients. Somewhere, Hippocrates is not amused.

I certainly agree that women (and men, to an extent) should have the information to made an informed choice. This is an extremely difficult issue, and decisions with respect to whether or not to get an abortion are nothing if not agonizing in many cases. Of course, it bothers me a great deal that some take the decision lightly. Like many others who are pro-choice, I would prefer that abortion were rare, and rarely necessary -- safe, legal, and rare, as Bill Clinton put it -- and not simply a matter of convenience that can be taken advantage of again and again.

But what Oklahoma is doing is staking the deck against choice, pushing women against abortion, without any regard for context (e.g., rape, incest, health concerns) when what they really need is support and compassion and understanding. And respect -- respect that they can make an informed decision without being told by the state what to do with their bodies, without being manipulated into doing what others want them to do.

It's funny, in a not terribly amusing way, that conservatives these days talk up liberty so much while doing their utmost to deny liberty to those they disagree with, including with respect to abortion.

"Republicans are now becoming a direct threat to your health if you are a woman," writes John Cole. I'd say they've been a threat for long time already. This is just more of the same. And it must be stopped.

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