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Okla. Judge Strikes Down State Law Banning Sex-Selective Abortion, Requiring Reporting of Personal Information

Okla. Judge Strikes Down State Law Banning Sex-Selective Abortion, Requiring Reporting of Personal Information

February 22, 2010 — Oklahoma County, Okla., District Judge Daniel Owens ruled Friday that a state law prohibiting sex-selective abortion and requiring women to complete a lengthy questionnaire before abortion procedures violates a state constitutional requirement that bills address a single subject, the AP/Muskogee Phoenix reports. The law -- signed by Gov. Brad Henry (D) in 2009 -- was intended to take effect on Nov. 1, 2009. Lora Joyce Davis -- represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights -- filed a lawsuit arguing that the law covered more than one topic. The court issued temporary restraining orders blocking the law's enforcement until the legal challenge was resolved.

The law would have prohibited abortion solely because of the fetus' sex and would have required abortion providers to administer surveys to collect various personal information -- including a woman's age, race, marital status, number of previous pregnancies and reasons for seeking the procedure. The detailed responses to the questionnaire were to be provided to the state Department of Health, which would then create an annual report on abortions in the state. State Rep. Dan Sullivan (R) wrote the bill.

Owens said, "When you look at the underlying purpose of the statute -- for the prevention of abortion for the sole purpose of the sexual status of the child -- that takes up two paragraphs of this bill. When you look at the rest, there are multiple subjects contained in this bill that are not related to that underlying purpose." He said that it was "pretty discouraging" that a law was created to prevent sex-selective abortion (Hines, AP/Muskogee Phoenix, 2/20). Owens also noted that he considers the idea of sex-selective abortion "uncivilized" (AP/News on 6, 2/19). He said, "But the issue before the court has nothing to do with pro-choice or pro-life" (AP/Muskogee Phoenix, 2/20).

In August 2009, another Oklahoma judge struck down an antiabortion law for violating the single-subject rule. One of the law's most controversial components was a requirement that a woman receive an ultrasound at least one hour before an abortion, with the image made available for viewing. The decision has been appealed to the state Supreme Court (Clay/McNutt, Oklahoman, 2/20).

Reaction to Ruling

Davis said, "I am disappointed to hear all this rhetoric about gender and sex-selective abortions. That's the most ridiculous and insulting thing to say to Oklahoma voters." She added, "The purpose is publicity, I think, to drum up emotions about a very private issue" (AP/Muskogee Phoenix, 2/20). Jennifer Mondino, an attorney for CRR, said, "The government has no business running a grand inquisition into the private lives of Oklahoma women" (Oklahoman, 2/20).

Teresa Collett -- the special assistant attorney general who defended the law on the state's behalf -- said, "We're disappointed that any court could interpret the state constitution as a barrier to aborting a child because of the sex." Collett said she would consult with regulatory bodies who were defendants in the suit before determining whether to appeal. Tony Lauinger, state chair of Oklahomans for Life, said that the topics included in the law all dealt with "the same subject [of abortion], and we are disappointed with the conclusion that was reached" (AP/Muskogee Phoenix, 2/20).