Abortion Law Akin to 'Undressing Women'

Lawsuit challenges law that would post personal abortion details on Web site.

ByABC News
October 15, 2009, 3:28 PM

Oct. 15, 2009— -- Two women are challenging an Oklahoma law that will require the state to create a Web site where any woman who has an abortion will have to provide intimate details about her choice -- including her relationships, financial situation and even her motivation for seeking the abortion.

"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 plaintiffs working with the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights to fight the law, which goes into effect Nov. 1.

Called the Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act, the law requires 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 does not ask for names, the form poses 37 questions detailing a woman's personal situation. 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.

"This law asks for so much information, and they are going to put it on the Internet for public scorn," said Davis. "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."

Many questions fish for more, critics say. "Was there an infant born alive as a result of the abortion?" and "Was the abortion performed within the use of any public institution?"

Doctors who fail to provide information would face criminal sanctions and loss of their medical license.

While the litigants object to the invasion of privacy, their lawsuit challenges the law on more technical grounds. It charges that House Bill 1595 covers more than one subject and therefore violates the state constitution.

The plaintiffs hope to delay implementation of the law and the planned March 1, 2010, launch of the Web site.

Last month, 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 numbers of finger and toes.

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