IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Oklahoma judge halts abortion ultrasound law

An Oklahoma judge has ruled against a law that requires women seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound and a doctor's description of the fetus.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An Oklahoma judge on Tuesday overturned a state law that required women seeking an abortion to receive an ultrasound and a doctor's description of the fetus.

Oklahoma County District Judge Vicki Robertson said the law violated constitutional requirements that legislative measures deal only with one subject. He did not rule on the validity of the ultrasound provisions.

Special Assistant Attorney General Teresa Collett said she will meet with state officials to discuss whether to appeal. The law was passed in 2008, but legal action has prevented it from going into effect.

Nova Health Systems, the parent group of Reproductive Services in Tulsa, filed a lawsuit in October, arguing that the law was unconstitutionally vague and it was not clear what the doctor should tell women undergoing the ultrasound.

Stephanie Toti, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights that represented Nova, said Oklahoma is the only state in the nation that mandated a physician to both conduct an ultrasound and describe the images to the patient.

"The ultrasound provision takes away a patient's choice about whether or not to view an ultrasound, and it requires physicians to provide information to their patients that the physicians do not believe is medically necessary," Toti said.

"It's an affront to women's autonomy and decision-making power, and it's also an intrusion to the physician-patient relationship."

In his ruling, Robertson referenced several difference provisions in the bill. It also allows doctors and other health care providers to refuse to take part in an abortion for moral and religious reasons; requires certain signs to be placed in clinics where abortions are performed; mandates that federal guidelines be followed in the use of the abortion pill RU-486; and prohibits wrongful life lawsuits arguing a disabled child would have been better off aborted.

Special Assistant Attorney General Teresa Collett said all of the provisions relate "to the practices that have arisen related to the taking of human life."

She had argued the statute clearly states what a doctor should tell a woman about the ultrasound image. The description would include the dimensions of the fetus, as well as the presence of cardiac activity and arms, legs and internal organs, according to the bill's text.

"Common medical practice is to require doctors to provide patients information that's necessary for them to make informed decisions," Collett said. "We don't think abortion should be any exception."

State Sen. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond, the principal author of the bill, said he will urge the attorney general to appeal and, if unsuccessful, said he likely would reintroduce a replacement measure next year.