District Judge Enjoins Oklahoma Ultrasound Law

By Dave Andrusko

District Judge Bryan Dixon

District Judge Bryan Dixon Wednesday enjoined Oklahoma’s 2010 informed consent ultrasound law, holding in a two-page decision that the law is unconstitutional because it addresses only patients, abortionists, and sonographers dealing with abortions and not other members of the medical personnel, according to the Associated Press.

A very similar ultrasound law was upheld in January by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., director of NRLC’s Department of State Legislation, told NRL News Today that contrary to Judge Dixon’s assessment, abortion can be treated differently because it IS different, a difference the United States Supreme Court has acknowledge in its abortion decisions.

She cited the 1992 Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey decision, where the High Court expressly acknowledged that a state may “further its legitimate goal of protecting the life of the unborn by enacting legislation aimed at ensuring a decision that is mature and informed, even when in so doing the state expresses a preference for childbirth over abortion.”

“Whether the baby is described as ‘life’ or ‘potential life,’ the Supreme Court has repeatedly accepted that the state has a ‘compelling interest” in that child’s existence.”

Balch explained that the Oklahoma law requires the abortionist to position the ultrasound screen in such a manner that it provides the mother an opportunity to see it, if she chooses. The law also requires that the abortionist “provide[s] a medical description of the ultrasound images, which shall include the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, if present and viewable, and the presence of external members and internal organs, if present and viewable.”

Balch described the law as a “trailblazer.” The law “places the obligation where it belongs–on the abortionist–to ensure that the mother has the opportunity to see her unborn child before she makes a life-and-death decision.” Under other ultrasound laws, the mother had to ask to see the ultrasound.

Balch noted that this is a state decision that applies only to Oklahoma. The appeals court decision applies to the entire 5th Circuit.

Pro-lifers in Oklahoma cleared a number of procedural hurdles and the veto of Gov. Brad Henry in enacting the law in 2010.

However, enforcement has been blocked since May 2010 when the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights challenged the law on behalf of Nova Health Systems, operator of Reproductive Services of Tulsa, and Dr. Larry Burns, who provides abortions in Norman, Oklahoma. “A lawsuit filed by the abortion-rights group claimed the statute violated the principles of medical ethics by requiring physicians to provide unnecessary and unwanted services to patients and discounting a woman’s ability to make decisions about her pregnancy,” according to the Associated Press.

There is a reason pro-abortionists are so unsettled by ultrasound laws. Balch pointed to a 2011 Quinnipiac University study, where two law professors found, “[U]ltrasound requirement laws reduce the odds of a woman having an abortion quite substantially.”

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