Abortion laws in Oklahoma put a new twist on ‘informed consent’ as they make ultrasound and heartbeat sounds mandatory aspects of the practice. Is it overkill or does it shine a light on the business aspect of pregnancy termination?
April, 2010: Abortion Clinics in Oklahoma Must Undertake Ultrasounds
As outlined by the New York Times(1), Oklahoma abortion legislation specifies that a physician, who is prepared to perform an abortion, must offer the patient a detailed description of the fetus she is about to have removed. Part and parcel of informed consent, abortion clinics in Oklahoma are also required to have ultrasound equipment on hand to allow the woman the opportunity to see the child.
The Center for Reproductive Rights challenges this law on the basis that it violates the doctors’ freedom of speech. It is unclear how informed consent infringes on the freedom of speech, but pro-choice groups suggest that the law is little more than a thinly disguised effort to bar women’s free access to safe pregnancy terminations.
May 2010: Abortion Laws in Oklahoma Suspended
The new Oklahoma laws – abortion providers refer to them as ‘restrictive’ – are in limbo and suspended. News OK(2) reports that a physician and a clinic are opposing the law for constitutional reasons. Both entities are represented by the aforementioned Center for Reproductive Rights.
It is interesting to note that — rather than citing a freedom of speech issue — this time around the affidavit suggests that the clinic in question “would likely be driven out of business in a short period of time.” Is this the true crux of the matter: profit?
A Woman Who Changed Her Mind
In the UK, Anna Chernocke was ready to be led into the operating room when she decided she had a change of heart. The Daily Mail(3) explains her agonizing decision and initial embarrassment to tell her doctor that she changed her mind, just as the nurses were ready to prep her for the abortion procedure.
She asserts that “Women aren’t told exactly what happens – I wasn’t until I asked – and that played a huge part in my decision.” She goes on to explain that she received brief written information, which also included a lot of medical jargon. Although technically and legally making an informed consent decision, it is apparent that she failed to emotionally and psychologically grasp the far-reaching consequences of the action.
Do Abortion Clinics in Oklahoma Put Fiscal Concerns above Women’s Mental Health?
The abortion laws in Oklahoma are clearly not designed to make it impossible for a woman to terminate a pregnancy. In fact, up to the minute ultrasounds actually ensure that physicians are aware of any problems. The little ‘extra’ that was earlier termed a means of violating a doctor’s free speech could also be seen as a means of avoiding serious mental and emotional health repercussions for the woman later on.
After all, an abortion is an irrevocable procedure. And yes, it does stop a beating heart.
(1)New York Times. “Strict Abortion Measures Enacted in Oklahoma” (accessed May 4, 2010)
(2)News OK. “Oklahoma judge temporarily halts new abortion law” (accessed May 4, 2010)
(3)Daily Mail. “Why I changed my mind seconds before I had an abortion” (accessed May 4, 2010)