New Oklahoma Abortion Law requires online disclosure

This is REALLY messed up.
Via Think Progress:

On Nov. 1, a law in Oklahoma will go into effect that will collect personal details about every single abortion performed in the state and post them on a public website. Implementing the measure will “cost $281,285 the first year and $256,285 each subsequent year.” Here are the first eight questions that women will have to reveal:
1. Date of abortion
2. County in which abortion performed
3. Age of mother
4. Marital status of mother
(married, divorced, separated, widowed, or never married)
5. Race of mother
6. Years of education of mother
(specify highest year completed)
7. State or foreign country of residence of mother
8. Total number of previous pregnancies of the mother
Live Births
Induced Abortions

When I first read this headline, I assumed this was one of the crazy proposed but not signed into law bills that get introduced all the time. Nope, this one already passed and will be enacted within a month. Turns my stomach.
Obviously it’s a huge violation of privacy, even without a name attached to the requirements. Totally a way to scare women into not having abortions.
Imagine these kinds of requirements for other medical procedures? Plastic surgeries, or vasectomies, or anything else? It’s absurd beyond belief.
Luckily, according to Jezebel, the Center for Reproductive Rights is challenging the law. Let’s hope they win.
More at Feminists for Choice, Jezebel and Think Progress. Updated: Check out the Broadsheet post on the story for more details.

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  1. jane
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    This exact law is already in effect in Georgia.

  2. bifemmefatale
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    How does this not violate HIPAA?

  3. Seth
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Ugh. I can already see this being used to “prove” dozens of stereotypes about what kind of people get abortions.

  4. LauraM
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    This is outrageous, but is there anything we can do about it as outsiders?

  5. Athenia
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:10 pm | Permalink


  6. analog
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I don’t get it, what is the point? The a-holes who are in favor of this, what do they say is the reason behind it? Does anyone know? I have looked all over on-line and can’t find any rationale for this.

  7. Alessa
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Post them on a public website?!?
    Are you fucking KIDDING me?!! This is so sick it makes my stomach upset!

  8. Pencils
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand how such a law could be passed. Most of these anti-choice laws are concealed with false concern for the pregnant woman. Such as, having to wait twenty-four hours before getting an abortion. You can pretend that it’s concern to keep women from making a bad decision (although we know that’s not it.) But this–there’s no “cover” reason for it at all. Even if it was arguably for statistical analysis, there’s no reason for it to be a public website.
    Besides, isn’t this arguably against HIPAA privacy rules? As abortion is a medical procedure.

  9. abatha
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    At a guess…
    1. To collect information about who is getting abortions (people of a certain race, education level, area of the state, etc.) so that targeted efforts can then be made to reduce abortions among that group. (I am not saying this is a good thing! This would be a bad thing even if it was not publicly disclosed!)
    2. To frighten/ shame women into not getting abortions.

  10. Ian in OH
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    If this weren’t so serious, it would be hilariously stupid. The entire thing is awful but #s 4 and 8 may be the worst of the bunch (most sexist).
    Best wishes to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Hopefully this doesn’t become a model for states all over the US. As the post said, WTF?

  11. Alessa
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me like a form of partial public ridicule. To them it seems like it’s easy to say “fine, you want an abortion? Let us make it widely known and available that you’ve done it and list personal facts about it.”
    Now my fear honestly is for high school students, college students, and people who work for other people who may be incredibly religious. Can you imagine if a high school senior got an abortion? If she managed to do everything quietly, even paying for it herself, and then because some girl or guy looks at the list and sees her name she is now subject to all sorts of public ridicule. I think I hear a lot of potential slut-shaming that this could be used for.

  12. Lily A
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I can definitely see how this law could be used to scare people into not having an abortion.
    Even in combination, the information asked for could not be used to identify an individual person.
    This information is already reported to the state and available for research, right?
    This information could be really really useful for reproductive rights activists! If we had better data about who gets abortions and under what conditions, we could better plan sex ed curriculum in schools, figure out what populations aren’t being served by existing abortion clinic locations, guess where would be good places to make mifepristone available, make sure there are people in every clinic who can interpret for non-English speakers, etc. And it could also help us fight stereotypes in certain circumstances — we could point to that data and say, “See? Lots of different kinds of women need abortions for lots of different reasons, it’s not just poor / minorities / young women / single women, etc.”

  13. kat
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    It may be legal if it’s non-identifying information. There are provisions in HIPAA to allow researchers to get data from medical records for health surveillance purposes, but it has to be approved by a review board. This may be written in such a way that they can get away with it.
    I think they could argue against based on the fact that certain people could fall in to a small demographic group that would make them identifiable (e.g., the 40 year old widowed African American from North Dakota with a PhD.)
    But even if it is legal, it’s disgusting.

  14. Lily A
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    The name would still not be on the website or available to the public, ever.

  15. bifemmefatale
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Donate to the Center for Reproductive Rights, since they’re fighting this in court?

  16. Lily A
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    The name would still not be on the website or available to the public, ever.

  17. rustyspoons
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    This is sick, shaming, and controlling. Are they going to post personal information for any other kind of medical procedure? They’re singling out this to make those women feel more vulnerable.

  18. alixana
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Do you have any further information about how it’s affected people seeking abortions in Georgia or how the law has played out in reality?

  19. rustyspoons
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    This is sick, shaming, and controlling. Are they going to post personal information for any other kind of medical procedure? They’re singling out this to make those women feel more vulnerable.

  20. Alessa
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Ahhh. There is the distinction.
    That’s AS outrageous, but it’s still pretty fucking outrageous.

  21. ElleStar
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Then they should post it in the aggregate, and not separately.
    I think compiling the data is a good thing, but the way they’re purporting to share it smacks of manipulation and a veiled attempt to shame women who get abortions that someone out there MIGHT be able to tell who they are. I think sharing individual experiences is important, but one must do so in ways that keep participants confidential. Therefore, including specific dates, ages, and races makes this problematic.

  22. Brittany
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    My thoughts on abortion aside, this is fucking disgusting.
    It’d be horrific to privacy either way, but what if the woman needed an abortion, due to her health or other reasons? Yet she still feels chastised for it and has to post all of her information for everyone to see.
    And the number of miscarriages…ugh. As if a miscarriage isn’t a painful enough memory for a woman.
    This turns my stomach. Just because it’s a controversial topic doesn’t mean that people have a right to stomp all over the privacy rights of the women recieving abortions.

  23. SarahMC
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Ooooh it’s like a modern-day scarlet “A.”
    Oklahoma, this is not okay.

  24. TroubleBaby
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Here is an article with a PDF of the full law. Another item on the questionnaire is “Was there an infant born alive as a result of the abortion?” They also define an “unborn child” as the “offspring of human beings from the moment of conception,” and including the zygote, blastocyte, etc.

  25. sbeath
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree. I think a Foucaultian analysis might be interesting here, because (from the little Foucault I’ve read), introduction of measurements of something is a subtle and insidious way of asserting and legitimizing control over it.

  26. UnHingedHips
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Yes, it could be used to identify a particular person.
    Say I’m the victim of domestic violence, I’m pregnant, I decide to get an abortion, I tell my abusive partner that I had a miscarriage, and he looks on that site and finds a listing with a date of abortion close to when I had my “miscarriage”, and the other details match.
    Obviously you could lie about some of the details they ask for(education, marital status, etc) if they don’t have any other medical records of yours when they perform the procedure, but there are situations in which you could identify an individual woman from that information if accurate.

  27. Andra8888
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I am from a county in Oklahoma with only 2000 females. Of these women, only 50% are under 45 years of age. Only about 540 women are between 18 and 44 years old. If a woman had an abortion in this county and her age, marital status, race, and education were online, I would have no problem identifying her.
    For a woman to have a chance at anonymity, she would have to go to more populated counties like Oklahoma County or Tulsa County. Of course, if a woman does not have a local personal physician willing to do this procedure, she probably has to do this anyway. Having this information online would alert citizens to the fact that a local doctor performs abortions. Doctors in less populated areas will not want to perform abortions for fear of harassment.

  28. sbeath
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    To be fair, it could also be used to “disprove” those stereotypes.
    I don’t think the data that would be collected here is itself inherently repressive and awful. What is repressive and awful is the way it’s targeted (only for abortion), collected, worded, characterized (question 8, etc), published, and likely used.

  29. aleks
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Small government conservatism FTW!

  30. TD
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Name or no name, this is plainly identifiable information, and people have a well established expectation of privacy for their medical records.
    I’m willing to bet that the State of Oklahoma is going to find this law very quickly ruled unconstitutional.

  31. sbeath
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    As someone who works in the public health and disability fields, I can see some well-meaning rationales, however faulty. This does require bypassing the more likely rationales, and it doesn’t excuse the law, but I try to find well-meaningness in everybody.
    1. Targeting educational, fiscal, or contraceptive resources. As someone who works as a service provider (different population and services here), it’s helpful to know where your services are needed and who needs them. Adoption agencies, abortion providers, contraceptive services, basic sex ed providers, and maternal and child health programs could all theoretically use the data that is being collected to direct their services to people who need them or might want them, theoretically expanding the reproductive options to people living in areas where those options are limited.
    2. Fighting the spread of eugenics. This, of course, is hugely problematic, but since selection of at least one characteristic is in the bill, it could be fueled in part by people wanting to stand up to an ugly movement that they see as classist, sexist, and repressive. I don’t have the credentials in Reproductive Justice to give this possibility the discussion it deserves.
    Again, I’m not saying that these rationales are necessarily likely, good, or in any way excuse the law. But they are possible, and understanding them is necessary to effectively combat them.

  32. TD
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    There is all manner of legitimate medical research which deals with sensitive information, even with controversial subjects. But they collect large samples, publish it in aggregate, and refrain from publishing anything which has so few respondents that it could be personally identifiable.
    What the law requires, if I read it correctly, is for the forms to be published individually. Which I cannot conceive of a legal defense for. I can’t even imagine justices who wanted to overturn roe v wade considering this a good case to try it on.

  33. nobody
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    What the hell is the point of this? Its one thing having information like this in a government-owned private database for whatever, but this seems pretty worthless.

  34. TD
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Kinda wondering that myself. The government is able to receive information without patient consent if it is limited and reasonably pursuant to a legitimate law enforcement purpose (e.g. notification of child abuse)
    But I can’t see how this could be argued.

  35. cattrack2
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    This is a sick, despicable, and sneaky attempt to identify women having abortions. Considering the death of Dr. Tiller, what kind of violence, much less ‘shaming’, does this bill open women up to? Outrageous!!!

  36. sbeath
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for more fully articulating my point by explaining how data like this could theoretically be collected in an ethical non-repressive manner and how Oklahoma deviates really strongly from that model. I’d thought about posting more on that but I was worried that someone would misinterpret and think I was advocating for the Oklahoma law. (ick)

  37. palau
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    In my state, Illinois, much of this info is available on the health dept’s website. It’s useful for researchers and nonprofit health care providers seeking funding. And, in the last few days, clinic protesters have been required to back off clients and staff. Lighten up!

  38. Chickensh*tEagle
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t taken time to double-check this, but wasn’t the Roe v. Wade decision based at least in part on the concept of an individual’s right to privacy? This one has really gotta be fought.

  39. UnHingedHips
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Receive, yes.
    Publish on the internet, no.

  40. UnHingedHips
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    If you mean this:
    it’s not the same thing at all. Publishing data in that form is totally fine. Publishing the individual data of individual women as described in this post is NOT fine.

  41. UnHingedHips
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Receive, yes.
    Publish on the internet, no.

  42. UnHingedHips
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink


  43. jane
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Honestly, I don’t think it’s done anything; the records are kept in a password-protected database (for public health officials, I guess, and those of us who enter the information from clinics/hospitals/etc), so it’s not a public website. There’s no names attached, true, but as others have pointed out, that doesn’t mean people can’t figure out who it is.
    The law may actually be different here since the form is filled out by the patient; they don’t have to answer, but we have to ask, basically.
    The more important issue (in my mind, at least) in Georgia is the effing Women’s Right to Know Act, which forces us to list all the risks of abortions and spout state-sponsored stuff about free ultrasounds (read: crisis pregnancy centers), fetal pain, child support, and pregnancy Medicaid.

  44. zpup
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Are these women getting knocked up by themselves? Why, if this data is so important, is none of it about the men that on some level are spreading their seed without the intent of supporting the child that they took part in creating? Sorry, this needs to go to the Supreme Court. So sad that there are so many people with this hateful additude towards women that such laws could ever pass. I’m a firm believer that if a man has 2 or more children that he has not supported until the age of 18, he is required to cut the seed trail down; no different than requiring a woman to have her tubes tied.

  45. nikki#2
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Besides publishing the information on a public website, gross, I thought this kind of information was already gathered anyway.

  46. HelleCat
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    If they put my name on SHIT without MY permission, I will sue the state of oklahoma. This is total crap! My abortion does not need to be public knowledge!!!
    Omg this scares the shit out of me. I will be on that list!!!
    Oh my god, what can I do girls? Who Do I call?

  47. bifemmefatale
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Read again. They’re not using names.

  48. Lily A
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    When I wrote that post I assumed that the information would only be available in aggregate. Aggregate information would be useful for all the reasons I described… but now I understand that as many people pointed out, the information would be available for individuals and could sometimes be used to identify people. That’s definitely not cool! Thanks to everyone who helped clarify.

  49. Lisa
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    If they don’t post individual data for each procedure on a public website then it loses the problems most of us object to. There is nothing wrong with compiling the data into a database and even allowing the public access to that information. I actually think it would help dispel a lot of the misconceptions about abortion and offer reproductive groups solid statistics to work with.
    I don’t care if the public can find out how many white, college-educated women with three children had an abortion in a particular year or month. What I do care about is if Mary takes the day off to get an abortion and 2 weeks later some one can see that on 12/12 a white, 33 year old, college-educated mother of 3 has an abortion in the county she works in.

  50. Rosathrine
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    For anyone who thinks that this might be ok, or not that bad, or whatever because the names are not posted (or anyone concerned about internet privacy) here is a really interesting article:
    It is true that this is not the same as if they just put the names up. Someone would really have to work to figure out the names, and still might not be able to. However, this is still a really creepy amount of information to post publicly about something so sensitive.

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