Legal challenge blocks Oklahoma law requiring ultrasound before abortion

An ultrasound image of an unborn child.
An ultrasound image of an unborn child.


Oklahoma’s attorney general has temporarily blocked enforcement of a new state law that requires abortionists to give an ultrasound to pregnant women and describe their unborn children before they get an abortion.

Tony Lauinger, state chairman of Oklahomans for Life and vice president of the National Right to Life Committee, said his group was sorry to see the law’s implementation delayed.

"This has been a long process and apparently it will be a little longer," he continued, according to the Associated Press.

He said that a pregnant woman should have all available information before she makes the irrevocable decision to terminate her pregnancy. He was “confident” that the law is constitutional.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) was prepared to argue for a temporary restraining order Monday. However, attorneys for both sides agreed to accept the order before the court hearing, reported Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich, who signed the order.

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmonson agreed to the order to give his office more time to retain Teresa Collett, a University of St. Thomas Law School professor who represented the state when a similar 2008 law was challenged by the CRR.

Collett is presently the Republican nominee in Minnesota’s Fourth Congressional District election this fall, the Associated Press says.

The law requires doctors to conduct a vaginal ultrasound, which is clearer than a regular ultrasound. Doctors are also to describe the unborn child in detail, including its size, whether its arms, legs and internal organs are visible and whether there is cardiac activity.

The doctors also must turn a screen depicting the ultrasound images towards the woman so that she can see them.

The pro-abortion CRR is challenging the law on behalf of Nova Health Systems, the operator of Reproductive Services of Tulsa, and Dr. Larry Burns, reportedly an abortion doctor in Norman.

Officials at Reproductive Services have said that the implementing the law had drawn emotional responses from patients. Some left the ultrasound room in tears because of what they heard.

In a statement last week, CRR argued that the requirement for an ultrasound “profoundly intrudes” on a patient’s privacy and forces a woman to hear information “that she may not want to hear.”

It has also characterized the law as an intrusion on the doctor-patient relationship.

Collett, a native of Norman, Oklahoma, said the Oklahoma statute is consistent with standard medical practice.

"It would be remarkable if a woman would undergo a medical procedure and a doctor would not have an obligation to describe the procedure and the results of that procedure to the patient," she commented, according to the Associated Press.

She said the lawmakers required abortionists to describe the ultrasound images because of some doctors’ “unusual failure” to give this information to pregnant women.

Last week, Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life spoke with CNA in an interview.

He contended that the law will help “empower” women.

“Many women suffer severe psychological and emotional trauma as a result of having had abortions,” he explained, saying the state has a right to ensure that women receive sufficient information for them to give fully informed consent.

He characterized abortion clinics as engaging in “an assembly-line, mass-production type of process” that is “extremely impersonal” and has “virtually no interchange between the abortionist and the woman.”

If the doctor is the staffer who explains the images of the ultrasound screen, he noted, the law will actually increase the amount of contact between the doctors and the patient.

In his view, the law was a “commonsense” measure.

“We don’t do pregnant women any favors when we hide the truth from them,” Lauinger said.

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