Judge To Decide Constitutionality Of Oklahoma Abortion Law
By Amy Lester, OKLAHOMA IMPACT TEAM
OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Bill 1595 has been called one of the strictest abortion laws in the country, and an Oklahoma County judge will decide Friday whether it's constitutional.
"It's not only unfortunate, it's incomprehensible that we would do this to one part of our society, to put these restrictions on women and no one else," lawyer Martha Hardwick said.
"I think we just ought to call them what they are, forced pregnancy fanatics," said Wanda Jo Stapleton, who's a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Stapleton said she believes the goal of HB 1595 is to harass and intimidate women.
The law bans women from getting an abortion simply because they want a child with a different sex. It also requires doctors to ask patients nearly 40 personal questions. Many of them detail the woman's relationships and reasons for seeking an abortion.
"It's outrageous really," Stapleton said. "This to me is social justice, to tell these people to keep their laws off my body and off of your body."
But the law's author said HB 1595 isn't meant to hurt Oklahomans, but rather help them. The goal is to collect information and prevent abortions. The answers to the questions will be posted online by the state health department.
"With these reporting requirements, we think we can move from a polarized debate to a very informed debate in Oklahoma on why women are choosing abortion, what are their reasons for that pursuit and allow health care professionals, mental health care and faith based, to give them more information to counsel these women in this very tough decision," Republican Sen. Todd Lamb said.
Lamb insisted the purpose is not to make life more difficult for women seeking abortions.
"I have a great respect for women. I would not want to harass or intimidate a woman in any way. That is absolutely false. That is misguided information," Lamb said.
The group Oklahomans For Life supports Lamb and the bill. The state chairman said it is constitutional.
"We should save the lives of unborn children where we can and we should spare the children's mothers from the agony they often go through for the years after an abortion," said Tony Lauinger with Oklahomans For Life.
Regardless of how anyone feels about the law, the judge won't make his decision based on the law's content. He'll strictly look at the single subject rule. The lawsuit states the law violates Oklahoma's single subject rule, which requires laws to only have one subject. The lawsuit argues the bill has four subjects. The bill's author insists it has one.
"The first part, prohibition of sex selection, the second part, abortion reporting requirements, they both deal with the same thing, the sanctity of human life," Lamb said.
Whether the law is found constitutional or not, those challenging it question the cost. According to the state's estimate, it would cost $281,285 to rebuild the electronic reporting system and implement a compliance oversight unit, for the first year. Then, it would cost $256,285 every year after that.
"It's a waste of money at a very, very critical time," Stapleton said.
Stapleton also called the reporting requirements unnecessary. Right now, the state collects data from women getting abortions and posts it on the OK 2 Share web site. Abortion statistics are broken down by county of residence, marital status, education and race.
Supporters of the law said that's not enough. Lawmakers already have single subject bills drafted that address each issue in this law, in case it's ruled unconstitutional.
Oklahoma County Judge Daniel Owens will decide whether the law constitutional, Friday at 1:30 p.m. The Oklahoma Impact Team will be there.