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Oklahoma under siege



A draconian abortion law has assumed national prominence as it continues to draw fire. House Bill 2780, passed by the Oklahoma Legislature in April 2010, became law, mandating that a woman or girl seeking an abortion must have an ultra sound within an hour of the procedure.

Specifically, the law requires that an instrument, called a transducer, be inserted in the vagina if that method produces the best ultrasound image. That image must then be described in detail, even by an unwilling doctor to an unwilling patient.

The law requires that even victims of rape or incest — for example, a pregnant 12 year old — is not exempt from this psychological rape disguised as a medical procedure.

When Gov. Brad Henry vetoed the bill, he declared that the “state victimizes the victim for a second time” after she has “faced the unspeakable trauma of rape or incest.”

Henry concluded that “House Bill 2780 represents an unconstitutional attempt by the Oklahoma Legislature to insert government into the private lives and decisions of its citizens. State policymakers should never mandate that a citizen be forced to undergo any medical procedure against his or her will. … To do so amounts to an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.”

Nevertheless, the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto of House Bill 2780, so the measure became law, but has not gone into effect because of a court challenge.

Agreeing with Gov. Henry is Stephanie Toti, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights. Toti is helping challenge the ultrasound law in Oklahoma County court because the law, in her words, “raises the most significant constitutional concerns.”

Toti’s latest court appearance (along with other attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights) was Jan. 21 in Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich’s courtroom. At issue was whether or not a couple of nationally affiliated organizations could intervene in the ultrasound case as opponents of reproductive rights. Judge Gurich allowed one organization to intervene and denied the other one.

In conclusion, Oklahoma is at the center of a national struggle to remove a woman’s choice and force her to hear and see information that she may not need or does not want.

—Wanda Jo Stapleton
Oklahoma City

Stapleton is a former university English teacher and state representative.

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