The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma law that requires women receive an ultrasound before an abortion and listen to their doctor describe the fetus is unconstitutionally vague and should be struck down, an advocacy group’s attorney told a judge Tuesday.
Stephanie Toti, an attorney for the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, said after the hearing that the anti-abortion law was “the most extreme law in the country.”
During oral arguments, she told District Judge Vicki Robertson that the law does not describe in sufficient detail what a physician or other medical professional is supposed to say to a woman about the ultrasound image.
“There are a million different things that a doctor could tell a patient about an ultrasound,” Toti said. “It is not clear what a physician must say.”
Special Assistant Attorney General Teresa Collett urged the judge to uphold the statute, saying it clearly states what a doctor should tell a woman about the ultrasound image. They include the dimensions of the fetus as well as the presence of cardiac activity and arms, legs and internal organs, according to the statute’s text.
“There is no lack of clarity in this,” Collett said.
She said the law requires the ultrasound at least one hour before an abortion is scheduled and helps provide a woman with the information she needs to make an informed decision about having one.
Robertson took the arguments under advisement and said she would hand down a ruling on Aug. 18. The judge said she needs additional time to read through volumes of legal documents submitted by attorneys for both sides.
“This is a lot to digest,” the judge said.
The anti-abortion bill was passed by an overwhelming majority of state lawmakers last year. It was vetoed by Gov. Brad Henry, who said it was “unconscionable” to require victims of rape and incest to undergo the ultrasound procedure.
But the Legislature overrode Henry’s veto so the bill could go into effect without his signature. It was the first time the two-term governor had one of his vetoes overridden.
It was set to go into effect Nov. 1, but Robertson granted a temporary injunction barring enforcement after Nova Health Systems, the parent group of Reproductive Services in Tulsa, filed a lawsuit in October challenging the law’s constitutionality.
Toti said the Tulsa clinic provides abortion services to about 200 women a month. It also does pregnancy testing and counseling and makes referrals to adoption agencies.
Opponents of the statute believe it intrudes upon a patient’s privacy, endangers her health and assaults her dignity.
“We feel very strongly that the statute is unconstitutional. We hope the judge agrees with us,” Toti told reporters after the hearing.
Collett and the measure’s supporters said they are optimistic that the law will be upheld.
“We believe that the law is constitutional,” said Tony Lauinger, state chairman of Oklahomans for Life. Lauinger, who helped lawmakers write the measure, objected to Toti’s characterization of it as extreme.
“We think it’s the most beneficial ultrasound law,” Lauinger said, adding that he thinks a woman should have as much information as possible before she makes a decision that she may regret later in life.
“She should have time to think about what she saw,” he said. “She has time to contemplate what she has seen and heard.”