New Oklahoma abortion law draws emotional response from patients

By Tim Talley/Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — The requirements of Oklahoma’s new abortion law are drawing some emotional responses from patients, a clinic director said Wednesday, now that women must have an ultrasound  and hear a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure can be done.

The law went into effect a day earlier, when the state Senate overrode Gov. Brad Henry’s veto of that measure and one that prohibits pregnant women from seeking damages if physicians withhold information or provide inaccurate information about their pregnancy.

“It’s been difficult for some of the patients,” said Linda Meek, executive director of Reproductive Services of Tulsa. “We’ve had patients leave the ultrasound room in tears because of what  they had to hear.”

The clinic’s owner, Nova Health Systems, and a doctor in Norman are part of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new law and asking a judge to block its enforcement. A hearing is  scheduled Monday in Oklahoma County District Court on the request for a temporary restraining order.

The new statute requires the person performing the ultrasound to describe the dimensions of the fetus, whether arms, legs and internal organs are visible and whether there is cardiac activity.  It also requires the doctor to turn a screen depicting the ultrasound images toward the woman to see them.

Meek said no patient at the clinic had yet canceled an abortion after hearing a description of the fetus. Jennifer Mondino, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights that filed the lawsuit, said that so far no patient at the Tulsa clinic has decided to view the images.

“All of the women chose to look away from the monitor,” she said.

Meek said the clinic routinely performed ultrasounds to determine the size of a fetus. But requiring women to listen to a description can be traumatic, she said, especially for rape and incest  victims and women with fetal abnormalities or whose pregnancy threatens their own life.

That the law lacked exemptions for rape and incest victims was one reason Henry gave for his veto. He also cited constitutional issues, saying the measures were an unlawful intrusion into citiz ens’ private lives.

A key supporter of the bill, Tony Lauinger, state chairman of the group Oklahomans for Life and vice president of the National Right to Life Committee, said the measures are an attempt to save  the lives of unborn children and prevent psychological trauma to pregnant woman.

“The intent of the law is to provide a woman with full and complete information in advance of an irrevocable act that will take the life of an unborn child,” Lauinger said. “It is hoped that with the benefit of that information some women will opt to allow their baby to continue to live.”