Mandatory ultrasounds and “informed consent”

Last week the Oklahoma legislature passed an omnibus bill chock-full of antichoice provisions. Now it’s sitting on the Governor Brad Henry’s desk awaiting a signature or a veto. (Henry is a Democrat with a mixed record on choice — he recently signed a parental notification law.)
An in-the-know friend of Feministing emailed to explain the bill to us:

SB 1878 is a hideous piece of anti-choice omnibus legislation that would, among other things, compel physicians one hour prior to performing an abortion to do an ultrasound on the patient and point out various features (e.g. heart beat, fetal movements) to the patient. A vaginal probe ultrasound is mandated if that gives the best image, even in those instances where the unwanted pregnancy is the result of rape. In first trimester terminations (almost all of them) that will be the case. There is a very hefty penalty if the physician fails to perform an ultrasound. (BTW, Oklahoma already has a law that requires doctors to offer women the opportunity to view an ultrasound at no cost to the woman by referral to a location that provides no-cost ultrasounds).

The bill also:

  • Prevents employers from “discriminating” against health care workers who refuse to perform a medical procedure (i.e. abortion, or a pap smear on a single woman)
  • Says only physicians can prescribe mifepristone (the abortion pill also known as RU-486) — even though this is already the law
  • Requires women’s health clinics that provide abortion to “conspicuously” post a sign on the premises that states it is “against the law for anyone, regardless of his or her relationship to you, to force you to have an abortion.”

The Oklahoma State Medical Association opposes the bill because it interferes with the practice of medicine. Also, if a doctor fails to comply with the law, the fines are absurd — starting at $10,000 and possibly up to $100,000. (Compare that to the maximum fine for DUI or reckless homicide in Oklahoma — $1,000.)

Pro-Choice Oklahoma has a list of Senators for you to contact to request that they support a veto of the bill.
This type of mandatory-ultrasound legislation has been cropping up all over the country. Until recently, only Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi require ultrasounds. (Georgia and “South Carolina considered similar legislation, but dropped it.) But the South Dakota and Ohio governors recently signed laws similar to the Oklahoma bill. And Florida is also considering an ultrasound bill, which would force women to pay for the procedure themselves:

Under a bill heading toward the Senate floor, a woman not only would have to watch live images of the ultrasound, or sign a form declining to, she would have to pay for the procedure even if she doesn’t watch it.
Most clinics include an ultrasound and factor it into the price of an abortion. But opponents say it’s not medically necessary and that making the expense mandatory runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution, hitting the poor particularly hard. An ultrasound typically costs between $50 and $250.

Antichoicers call this “informed consent.” But as Jessica wrote awhile back, when Will Saletan had a horrible column on mandatory-ultrasound legislation,

Because obviously women who have made the decision to end a pregnancy won’t understand the “truthâ€? unless it’s put up on an easy-viewing screen. As Amanda so aptly noted in an email exchange: “If women only knew that they were getting abortions when they got abortions!!!!!”

Right. What mandatory-ultrasound-viewing bills do is insult women by assuming they haven’t fully considered what they’re doing when they decide to opt for abortion. We don’t need the “help” of antichoice state legislators to understand what abortion is. We get it.
Related: See Ema’s brilliant post on what *real* “informed consent” might look like.

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