A new Oklahoma law that forces women who have had abortions to post details of the procedure online is being sharply criticized by women’s rights groups, and is now being challenged in court by two Oklahoma women.
As of November 1, doctors in Oklahoma will be compelled — under penalty of criminal prosecution — to post the details of each abortion they perform online. Among the details to be posted for every abortion is the patient’s age, marital status and race; her financial condition; her education; and the total number of her previous pregnancies.
In all, 37 personal questions will have to be asked and answered, and posted publicly for the world to see, under the new law.
“A friend said it best: It’s like undressing women in public, exposing their most personal issues on the Internet,” Lora Joyce Davis, one of the plaintiffs suing to prevent the law from coming into effect, told ABC News.
While the abortion patient’s name will not be published, “critics say the first eight questions alone could easily lead to the identification of a woman who lives in one of the state’s many small communities,” ABC reports.
Davis is convinced the lives of Oklahoma women who receive abortions will be threatened by the law, which is known as the Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act.
“Women who have abortions are considered murderers by many people, and you are going to put the name of a town of 200 and the fact that the girl is 17 and it’s her first pregnancy and she in the 10th grade. People are going to know who it is,” Davis said.
Davis, along with former state Rep. Wanda Jo Stapleton, filed the lawsuit with the help of the Center for Reproductive Rights. The lawsuit seeks to have the law declared unconstitutional under the Oklahoma Constitution because it covers more than one subject.
Jennifer Mondino, a lawyer for CRR, told the UK Guardian that the law is designed to “make women more nervous about going to [abortion] doctors.”
“The intent of this law is to further restrict access to abortions in Oklahoma,” she said. “There are a number of states that have a reporting requirement but not as broad and detailed as in Oklahoma. It’s very unusual to consider putting such detail about patients on a Web site.”
The law has come under extreme criticism from social activists. The Feminists for Choice blog declares the law invalid under the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
“A major goal of the Privacy Rule is to assure that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well being,” blogger Reyna writes. “This law does quite the opposite. Instead of protecting patients, this law puts these [women] in danger.”
“Why don’t we just tattoo a Scarlett “A” on their foreheads?” blogger Mike the Mad Biologist asks at ScienceBlogs.
According to CCR, nearly one-quarter of women in the United States have to travel more than 50 miles for an abortion. The number of abortion doctors in the US has declined 25 percent since 1992, and a full 87 percent of US counties don’t have an abortion provider, despite the Supreme Court declaring the procedure legal in 1973.