Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Oklahoma: SO NOT OK!!!

Three recently enacted Oklahoma laws (which will be challenged in court, thankfully) restrict women's rights to a degree unimaginable here in the heart of Blue State America. One is in the usual and unimaginative vein of anti-choice legislation: it requires a woman to view an ultrasound of her fetus before undergoing her procedure. The second infringes the patient's right to privacy to an eye-popping degree: it requires every woman seeking an abortion to fill out a lengthy questionnaire about herself. And the third law is so beyond the pale it shocks the conscience: In Oklahoma, doctors may now LIE to their patients about the health of a fetus.

Try to imagine any other doctor/patient situation where this would be acceptable to the government. Not telling a patient she has stage 4 cancer and one month to live? Not telling parents their child has a heart defect? Not telling the patient the drugs he needs to have normal organ function will cause crippling side effects?

Last time I checked, lying to -or even willfully misleading - the patient was grounds for losing one's license to practice medicine in just about every jurisdiction.

Except, it seems, in Oklahoma. And the legislators there were quite clear that physicians may only lie in cases where the patient happens to be a pregnant woman. Which is total bullshit, for many reasons. Among the more practical of which is that it will cost the citizens of a poor state millions of dollars to litigate. Which seems like a foolish use of funds for the 9th poorest state in the union.

But the biggest reason these laws make my skin crawl is that they represent yet another weapon the so-called pro-life movement can lob against poor women. Like all attempts to restrict the right to choose, this one will only deter those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

Rich Oklahoman women desiring to know the truth about their fetuses may travel elsewhere for medical care. Those who wish to terminate their pregnancies based on information that could be legally withheld at home may travel out of state for the operation, unencumbered by intrusive forms and unnecessary tests that serve no medical purpose.

Poor Oklahoman women, meanwhile, will be left wondering if they can trust their doctors. And if they want abortions, for reasons medical or personal, they'll have to jump through more hoops than anywhere else in America. Wealthy Oklahoman women (and well-to-do Oklahoman soccer moms seeking terminations for accidentally pregnant teenage daughters) can hop on a plane and dispense with the nonsense.

I was utterly unsurprised to read that the new Oklahoma laws had been championed by (white male ostensibly Christian) legislators. Maybe if these obtuse lawmakers really wanted to reduce the number of abortions, they'd enact laws to mandate real sex education, or at the very least, some male accountability. And expand services for children of poor families, and for working moms.

Or maybe if the Oklahoman men who impregnated the Oklahoman women seeking abortions had to make their medical and personal information public, Oklahomans in general would think twice about electing representatives who champion such laws.

Dare to dream.

In a way it's almost refreshing to see laws so blatantly, unambiguously offensive. Oklahoma's new laws are so patently misogynistic that maybe women elsewhere in this country will finally take notice. Just because there's a Democrat living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue doesn't mean the right to choose is secure or inalienable. Especially for those women who don't happen to have a lot of money.

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