Okla. Strikes Down Law That Would Have 'Undressed' Women


The Oklahoma County District Court today ruled that a law passed by the legislature in 2009 that imposed restrictions on abortion is unconstitutional, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which had challenged the law.

The court ruled that bill 1595 addressed too many topics, and therefore violated the Oklahoma constitution's "single-subject" rule.

One of the most contentious parts of the law was the creation of a Web site whereby any woman who had had an abortion would have been required to provide personal details pertaining to her choice, including her relationships, financial situation and motivation for seeking an abortion.

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The center filed a challenge against the law in September on behalf of former state representative Wanda Stapleton and Shawnee, Okla., resident Lora Joyce Davis.

"A friend said it best: It's like undressing women in public, exposing their most personal issues on the Internet," said Lora Joyce Davis, one of the co-plaintiffs.

In addition to mandating the new Web site for abortion-related demographics, the legislation also redefined various abortion terms, banned sex-selective abortion and created other new reporting requirements.

The law went into effect in November 2009 and the Web site would have launched in March.

"We are very pleased with today's ruling," said Jennifer Mondino, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "The government has no business running a grand inquisition into the private lives of Oklahoma women and wasting a quarter of a million dollars of taxpayers' money in the process."

Called the Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act, the law would have required all doctors to file information on a woman's age, marital status, education level, number of previous pregnancies, cost and type of abortion, as well as the mother's relationship to the father, with the Oklahoma Department of Health.

Though it did not ask for names, the form posed 37 questions detailing a woman's personal situation. Critics said the first eight questions alone could easily lead to the identification of a woman who lived in one of the state's many small communities.

Doctors who failed to provide information would face criminal sanctions and loss of their medical licenses.

Last year, the organization used the same argument to successfully strike down a 2008 law that would have required women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound within an hour of the proceedings and require doctors to describe the picture to their patients in great detail -- down to the number of fingers and toes.

Abortion Law 'Protects Sanctity of Life'

The new law was sponsored by two anti-abortion rights Republicans, Sen. Todd Lamb, of Edmond, and Rep. Dan Sullivan, of Tulsa.

"This legislation is essential in protecting the sanctity of life," said Lamb when the bill was enacted last April. "Too often the life of the unborn is taken for granted, and I applaud my colleagues for their bipartisan support of a pro-life measure, despite attempts on the floor to sabotage this issue important to families across our state."

But Davis, and co-plaintiff Wanda Jo Stapleton, a former Democratic state representative from Oklahoma City, argued that the law was not only ineffective but was also "an unlawful expenditure of public funds."

The Web site, they say, would have cost taxpayers $281,285 the first year and $256,285 every subsequent year.

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