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Point: Ultrasound law is unconstitutional


Martha Skeeters August 19th, 2010

The injunction that prohibited House Bill 2780, the "Ultrasound Law," from going into effect serves Oklahoma's citizens well.

The injunction that prohibited House Bill 2780, the "Ultrasound Law," from going into effect serves Oklahoma's citizens well. This law requires a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy to undergo an ultrasound whether or not it is medically necessary, and to view and hear a detailed explanation of the ultrasound image.

In this law, Oklahoma legislators have ignored the needs of women and the expertise of health care providers while attempting to practice medicine themselves. Legislators who call for getting government out of our lives have put it into the most private lives of Oklahoma's women and those who love them.

In almost every case, the mandated procedure must be a vaginal ultrasound, for the law requires the best image of the fetus, usually obtainable only through a vaginal ultrasound in the first three months of pregnancy; and in Oklahoma, almost all terminations are done in the first trimester. While the transducer is inserted into a woman's body, the image of the fetus must be within the woman's view, and the doctor must describe the fetus in detail. The woman is allowed to avert her eyes, but is forced to listen to the doctor's description.

This law is intended to burden women with shame and humiliation for asserting their own moral vision within their own circumstances, and it is intended to dissuade women from exercising their constitutional right to have an abortion. It also forces doctors to become tools of the government in this effort.

Supporters of this law say it helps and protects women by giving them additional information. Strangely enough, they also supported House Bill 2656, which allows a doctor to lie to a woman and her partner about the health of a fetus. If the doctor fears a woman might choose to terminate a pregnancy, he may withhold information without any liability.

Some say they want to protect women from regretting their decision later in life.  Obviously, if the government starts trying to protect us all from regret, we are going to have a gigantic government poking its nose into all aspects of our lives. Women do not want and do not need this kind of "protection" as they make difficult decisions based on their own values and circumstances. They want the government out of their private lives.

This law is clearly aimed at persuading women to change their minds about terminating a pregnancy, and was put forward by a group with a particular religious view of abortion with the intention of imposing their standards on the rest of the community. 

But Americans believe in individual freedom and revere our Constitution, which protects religious freedom for all. The Constitution does not allow our elected officials to choose one religious viewpoint and force it on everyone. Thus, the injunction against HB 2780 is protecting members of the community against this infringement of their constitutional rights.

While the law is being challenged, women will not have to submit to a state-ordered medical procedure in order to assert their own moral vision and exercise a constitutional right. If ever we, as citizens, needed to recognize a government out of control, we need now to name the government takeover of women's bodies for what it is: a dramatic and authoritarian exercise of government against the freedom of its citizens.

Skeeters, an associate professor of women's and gender studies and adjunct associate professor of history at the University of Oklahoma, is president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice.
 
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