Oklahoma Abortion Law: No Exceptions, Even Rape
Women seeking abortion will be forced to see fetal image, get unwanted speech.
April 29, 2010— -- From the time she was 15 and repeatedly over the course of two years, Joelle Casteix -- a vulnerable teen with an alcoholic mother -- was sexually abused by her California high school music teacher.
At 17, when Casteix discovered she was pregnant with her assailant's child, she sought an abortion, one that she says was emotionally painful, but she doesn't regret.
"For the first time in my life, I did something to take care of myself," she said. "I needed to ensure my safety and make sure he wouldn't hurt me. For me it was an act of survival."
At the abortion clinic, Casteix was given comfort and counseling then underwent a standard sonogram to determine the gestational age of the fetus. Sheturned her eyes away from the screen.
But under a new law in Oklahoma, women like Casteix, who have been sexually assaulted, will be forced to undergo a second trauma. The law requires them to undergo a sonogram, and depending on the state of pregnancy, it could be a transvaginal one, which involves insertion of a wand.
The doctor must then turn the screen towards her and describe fetal dimensions and details like the number of fingers and toes and heart activity.
There are no exemptions for victims of rape and incest.
"The law takes no account of the trauma of the victim," said Casteix. "I just can't imagine what that would have done to me. It upsets me just thinking about being in that position. If you are the victim of a violent crime, it's absolutely devastating."
The Oklahoma law was enacted immediately on Tuesday after both the state's Republican-controlled House and Senate voted to override Democrat Gov. Brad Henry's veto of two anti-abortion bills.
Already, one of the three abortion clinics in Oklahoma is reporting that women are so upset about the sonogram procedure, they are leaving the clinic crying.
"Not one patient would look at the screen and they all closed their eyes or turned their heads," said Linda Meek, director at Reproductive Services in Tulsa, which does 3,000 abortions a year.
"But it's hard to turn your ears off," she said. "Several of the patients were in tears afterwards. No one changed their mind."
The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a legal challenge to the controversial law, arguing it violates both the patient's and doctor's freedom of speech and intrudes upon a patient's privacy in her relationship with her doctor.