Women's medical privacy rights could be threatened and the state's growing bioscience industry would have suffered under new pro-life legislation in Oklahoma.
House Bill 1595, which has passed the House and Senate, would require doctors to submit detailed information on each abortion they perform to the Oklahoma Health Department, which would put the information on a Web site. The bill also prohibits abortions based on the fetus' gender.
Although women's names would not be revealed, medical privacy rights could be threatened under HB 1595, which is sponsored by Rep. Daniel Sullivan, R-Tulsa. The reporting form would apparently include the age, marital status, race, education level and total number of pregnancies of the women seeking abortions. It also asks for the name of the county in which the abortion was performed and the reason for the abortion.
How is the personal information related to overall public health? Could women from small towns be identified through their age, marital status and other information collected in the questionnaire? Women seeking abortions in Oklahoma might be intimidated or feel harassed by the reporting form.
The information would go on a Web site, costing the state an estimated $281,285 to establish and then $256,285 a year after that. The bill states the Health Department "shall take all necessary precautions to ensure the security of the electronically submitted reports," but it's always a possibility that someone could hack into the site.
The bill's provision to prohibit abortions based on gender is superfluous. Are Oklahoma women really seeking abortions based on gender? Where is the evidence? How would a doctor determine that gender was the reason for a particular abortion unless a woman volunteered the information?
Another supposed pro-life measure, House Bill 1326, sponsored by Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, would have banned embryonic stem cell research in the state. This would have impacted the state's bioscience industry and made the state seem against medical research. Fortunately, Gov. Brad Henry vetoed the bill after it passed the House and Senate. The Senate sustained Henry's veto, which was supported by both the Oklahoma City and Tulsa chambers of commerce.
Researchers use frozen embryos that are going to be discarded to find cures for such diseases as diabetes. This vital research could sustain and enhance lives.
Reynolds has also filed an amendment to a Senate tax reduction bill prohibiting companies conducting embryonic stem cell research from receiving income tax credits or incentive payments.
Another measure supported by the pro-life lobby, Senate Bill 1103, simply validates the rights of a pregnant woman to protect herself and her pregnancy. It passed both legislative chambers and was signed into law by Henry.
SB 1103 is innocuous, but meaningless. Under the bill, pregnant women can legally kill someone if the "use of force or deadly force are immediately necessary to protect her unborn child." The bill, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, is "model legislation" from Americans United for Life. It can be seen as another attempt by the right wing to give the fetus rights over the mother. Oklahoma already has laws allowing for self-defense, and it has a fetal homicide law.
These three initiatives, part of the pro-life agenda in Oklahoma, do nothing to move the state forward.
Hochenauer is an English professor at the University of Central Oklahoma and the author of the progressive blog, Okie Funk: Notes From The Outback, www.okiefunk.com.