A Minor Victory for Choice in Oklahoma

What Women Really Think
Dec. 31 2009 10:30 AM

A Minor Victory for Choice in Oklahoma

As Hanna wrote in October, Oklahoma anti-choicers discovered a clever new way to rob women of their reproductive rights. Under the guise of policy research, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to complete a 37-question autobiographical survey, the results of which would be posted on a publicly accessible Web site. Critics of the new measure argue that the first eight questions could easily identify women living in the state’s more sparsely populated rural regions and discourage them from undergoing the procedure out of fear of public shame, harassment, or retaliatory violence.

This time the abortion foes’ savvy subterfuge backfired. In order to prevent the law from taking effect, the Center for Reproductive Justice filed a temporary restraining order and launched a lawsuit alleging that the bill’s wide-ranging provisions violate the state’s "single-subject rule," which prohibits prospective laws from addressing more than one issue. Although all of the clauses of House Bill 1595 pertain broadly to the subject of abortion, the Center argues that the creation of a brand new job for the Department of Health and the seemingly random inclusion of a ban on gender selection render the initiative invalid. An Oklahoma district judge recently decided to extend the restraining order until Feb. 19, when the court will rule on the merits of the case.

Advertisement

Despite the preliminary success of this dilatory tactic, some feminists lament that the Center’s complaint attacks the legislation on procedural, rather than substantive, grounds, and does not address the fundamental affront to women’s health and privacy. Even if a judge tosses out the new law, there is nothing stopping lawmakers from drafting a similar, more narrowly focused bill. Defeating the law on substantive grounds should not have been difficult. As some have pointed out, the purported goal of gathering information is bogus at best, as the data would be inappropriate for academic research . Moreover, the identifying details in women’s responses likely qualify as "protected health information" under HIPAA and cannot be made available to the public. Perhaps most importantly, publishing this kind of data tacitly incites vigilantism by Christian fundamentalists. In Operation Rescue country, women identified as abortion recipients don’t simply risk losing health coverage-they risk losing their lives and livelihoods.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.