July 20, 2010 — On Monday, Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich approved a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of an abortion restriction law (HB 2780) until litigation over the law is completed, the Oklahoman reports. The law requires women seeking abortion care first undergo an ultrasound. Gurich set the next hearing for Jan. 21, 2011, although she added that she could rule earlier than that.
The law -- which passed in the spring after the Legislature overrode Gov. Brad Henry's (D) veto -- requires an abortion provider to perform an ultrasound at least one hour prior to the procedure. The image also must be placed within the view of the woman, although she can avert her eyes.
Gurich first issued a temporary restraining order against the law on May 3 after the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the measure's constitutionality. The CRR lawsuit was filed on behalf of two of the state's three abortion providers, who argue that the measure will have a negative effect on women. CRR has successfully challenged two other Oklahoma antiabortion laws (Clay, Oklahoman, 7/20).
During Monday's hearing, CRR attorney Stephanie Toti argued that the measure might force women to hear irrelevant medical information. "Over a woman's objection, she must be shown an ultrasound image," Toti said, adding that the law suggests that "women are inherently incapable of caring for themselves." She also said that the law is vague on what abortion providers are required to say about the ultrasound and violates their free speech by requiring them to describe the fetus' dimensions and any visible organs (Talley, AP/KSWO, 7/19).
Special assistant attorney general Teresa Collett argued that the law is designed to offer women relevant medical information that allows the patient to give informed consent for an abortion. Collett also said that one of the clinics represented in the lawsuit already performs ultrasounds for medical reasons.
However, Martha Skeeters, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, said that the law is "really government out of control" (Oklahoman, 7/20). She said, "People are finally fed up with abusive legislation," adding that the state is wasting taxpayer dollars defending the measure and others like it (Hoberock, Tulsa World, 7/20).