Monday February 22, 2010

Judge Strikes Down Oklahoma’s ‘Unconstitutional’ Ban on Sex-Selective Abortion

By Peter J. Smith

OKLAHOMA CITY, February 22, 2010 ( – A state judge has deemed Oklahoma’s law banning sex-selective abortion unconstitutional, ruling that the law violated the state’s single-subject rule for legislation.

Oklahoma County District Judge Daniel Owens claimed that his decision “has nothing to do with pro-choice or pro-life.”

Instead, Owens argued the problem lay with the legislature including additional mandates in the law – such as one requiring abortionists to fill out comprehensive reports for an electronic database. The information was intended to give state health officials more information about why women choose abortion and their circumstances.

“When you look at the underlying purpose of the statute — for the prevention of abortion for the sole purpose of the sexual status of the child — that takes up two paragraphs of this bill,” Owns said. “When you look at the rest, there are multiple subjects contained in this bill that are not related to that underlying purpose.”

Pro-life advocates, however, said the bill dealt with the single subject of abortion, under which the provision strengthening abortion reporting requirements occupied a relevant place.

Assistant Attorney General Teresa Collett said that Owens’ legal thinking – the abortion question aside – misconstrues the single-subject rule in a way that was never intended, and would bring the legislative process to a grinding halt.

“The ruling today basically says that the legislature has to take each single sentence and create a new bill, that will paralyze the legislation and it brings into question most of the existing statutes on the books,” said Collett.

Oklahoma passed the abortion law, HB 1595, in 2009. It was scheduled to go into effect last November, until a judge issued a temporary injunction at the request of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Representing former state legislator Lora Joyce Davis, CRR argued that besides the single subject issue, the law intruded upon women’s personal lives and, at $250,000 a year to maintain, was too costly.

The law mandated that abortionists fill out 37 questions for reporting information on abortion procedures, safe medical protocols, and find out why their clients were seeking abortion. The data would have been submitted to the state health department, which would then have been tasked with developing an annual report on the enhanced abortion statistics. The statistical data would have been publically accessible through the internet.

The names of the women would have been omitted from the mandated report.

The reporting law also required abortionists to ask orally or in writing for the reasons the mother was aborting her child, and additionally to reveal what kind of abortion they had performed, whether anesthesia was administered to the mother and/or the “fetus,” that a licensed medical professional was performing ultrasounds before, during, and after the abortion, and what method of payment was given for abortion.

The law also required abortionists to reveal what measures they took – if any – to save the life of an infant born alive from an abortion.