Okla. Judge Strikes Down State Law Requiring Ultrasound, Description of Image Before Abortion

March 29, 2012 — Oklahoma County District Judge Brian Dixon on Wednesday struck down a state law that would have required a woman seeking abortion care to first view an ultrasound image of the fetus and listen to a detailed description of the image, CNN reports (Valencia, CNN, 3/28).

Dixon said the law is unconstitutional because it only applies to abortion and not other medical procedures (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/28).

The law was passed in April 2010 after the state Legislature overrode a veto by former Gov. Brad Henry (D). A temporary injunction was granted in May 2010 to block enforcement of the law after the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged its constitutionality (Allen, Tulsa World, 3/29). CRR's lawsuit was filed on behalf of two of the state's three abortion providers, who argued that the law would unduly burden women's access to abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/20/10).

CRR President and CEO Nancy Northup said of the ruling, "The court has resoundingly affirmed what should not be a matter of controversy at all -- that women have both a fundamental right to make their own choices about their reproductive health, and that government has no place in their decisions" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 3/28).

House Committee Advances 'Personhood' Bill

In other Oklahoma news, the state House Public Health Committee on Tuesday voted 7-4 to approve an amended version of a "personhood" bill (SB 1433) that would grant "the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges and immunities available to other" state residents, the Tulsa World reports.

The bill, which now moves to the full House, defines "unborn child" as "the offspring of human beings from the moment of conception until birth." It states that charges would not be filed against pregnant women for indirectly harming a fetus by not following prenatal care guidelines.

Rep. Lisa Billy (R), the House sponsor of the legislation, told the committee that the measure would not change existing abortion laws or affect medical research, in vitro fertilization, or other legal medical and scientific procedures.

Rep. Doug Cox (R) offered an amendment to "put into writing exactly what Rep. Billy said," but it was rejected by the committee. Another amendment that would have protected physicians if an abortion is performed to save a woman's life also was voted down (Krehbiel, Tulsa World, 3/28).