Judge Intervenes in Oklahoma Abortion Survey Debate

How much information should be known about who has abortions–and why they do it? What if the questions are so specific that they might reveal the identity of the woman involved?

The state of Oklahoma is being forced to grapple with those questions after the legislature passed a law requiring doctors to ask the patients 37 questions from marital status to financial condition, the answers of which would then be posted on a public Web site. Abortion rights groups complained, saying that the questions very likely might reveal the identities of women in rural areas, according to this story from ABC News and the Christian Science Monitor:

An Oklahoma County judge, Daniel Owens, recently extended a restraining order against enactment of the law until Feb. 19, when a hearing is scheduled to see if a law suit involving the new law is dismissed. This AP story says the Center for Reproduction Rights and two women sued on technical grounds, saying the legislation violated a rule in the state constitution that requires a piece of legislation to deal with only one issue–called the “single subject law.”

The Tulsa World has this related story on the cost to Oklahoma to defend its abortion legislation, including another recently passed law–requiring a woman to have an ultrasound within one hour of the procedure–that was also tossed out as having violated the single subject law. The article quotes Tony Lauinger, chairman of Oklahomans for Life as saying the question of cost to the state to defend the statutes on its books isn’t the point. “The principal consideration would be the question of what is a human life worth? … If the effect of this pro-life legislation will be to save lives, which we fully anticipate would be the effect of it, then it is a very modest sum very well spent.” 

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