State Abortion Law Immediately Challenged
(CN) - A clinic and an obstetrician sued Oklahoma on Tuesday, the day it enacted a harsh and restrictive law that would subject a doctor to felony charges if the doctor "knowingly or recklessly performs or attempts to perform an abortion." H.B. 2780 also requires doctors to show a woman an ultrasound photo of her embryo or fetus while simultaneously describing its particular features. And it allows a woman's brother to sue her doctor, even if his sister requested the abortion.
H.B. 2780 was enacted on April 27 over Gov. Brad Henry's veto. It takes effect immediately.
Nova Health Systems dba Reproductive Services and Dr. Larry Burns say it is unconstitutionally vague, violates women's and doctor's constitutional speech rights, is an impermissible special law, and "impermissibly burdens the fundamental rights of plaintiffs' patients to terminate a pregnancy and avoid unwanted speech in a private setting."
"In addition, the Act exposes abortion providers to an array of intimidating civil and administrative penalties to which no other health care providers in the state are exposed."
"The Act prohibits a woman from obtaining an abortion unless, at least an hour before the procedure, 'the physician who is to perform the abortion or induce the abortion, or the certified technician working in conjunction with the physician' (1) '[p]erform[s] an obstetric ultrasound on the pregnant woman, using either a vaginal transducer or an abdominal transducer, whichever would display the embryo or fetus more clearly;' (2) '[p]rovide[s] a simultaneous explanation of what the ultrasound is depicting;' (3) '[p]rovide[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.'" (All brackets as in complaint.)
Lawmakers concede that the provisions of the law may be obnoxious.
"The Act notes that '[n]othing in this section shall be construed to prevent a pregnant woman from averting her eyes from the ultrasound images required to be provided and reviewed with her.'"
In addition to the felony provision, "an abortion provider who performs an abortion in violation of the Act 'shall be considered to have engaged in unprofessional conduct for which the provider's certificate or license to provide health care services' in Oklahoma may be suspended or revoked."
"Furthermore, the Act authorizes a wide range of people - including not only an abortion patient, but also her spouse, parent, sibling, guardian, or current or former licensed health care provider; a district attorney with appropriate jurisdiction; and the state attorney general - to seek an injunction against an abortion provider who 'knowingly' violates H.B. 2780."
Violations are also punishable by fines of $10,000 for the first offense, $50,000 for the second offense, $100,000 for the third, and more than $100,000 per offense thereafter.
The defendants are Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson; Greg Mashburn, the district attorney for Cleveland, Garvin and McClain Counties; Lyle Kelsey, director of the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision; and Dr. Gordon Laird, president of the State Board of Osteopathic Examiners.
Plaintiffs plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment and an injunction. Their lead counsel in Oklahoma County Court is Anne Zachritz with Andrews Davis.