Friday, August 6, 2010

Red State Round-Up: Oklahoma

Written by Kathleen Wallace, Attorney in Oklahoma City, OK

I. The Oklahoma Legislature Passes 8 Anti-Choice Bills in 2010

On May 28, 2010, the Oklahoma legislature adjourned for the session without overriding Governor Brad Henry's veto of an abortion insurance bill. This was the only veto (of 4) that escaped over-ride. Among other things, the legislation would have banned insurers planning to participate in the new federal insurance exchange from offering abortion coverage. There were eight abortion restriction passed by the legislature this session.

Two of the most offensive bills were specifically targeted by our lobbying efforts: The ultrasound requirement (HB 2780) and the reporting requirements bills (HB 3284). The ultrasound requirement bill forces a woman seeking an abortion to hear in detail a description of an ultrasound image, even if she objects. The reporting law requires doctors to inquire about the most private aspects of the life of a woman seeking an abortion, touching on about 90 different factors including her race and ethnicity and whether financial or relationship problems are the reason she is planning to have an abortion. That information will then be published on a public website.

II. The Pro-Choice Response

A. In Court

The Center for Reproductive Rights was set to argue for a temporary restraining order on the ultrasound bill on Monday, July 19, 2010, but attorneys for both sides agreed to accept the order before the court hearing, Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich said. She signed the order Monday afternoon. Attorney General Drew Edmondson agreed to the order to give his office more time to retain Teresa Collett, a University of St. Thomas Law School professor who represented the state when a similar law passed in 2008 was challenged by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Teresa Collett currently resides in Minnesota but is originally from Norman, OK.

The next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 21, 2011.

B. In the community

Women in Oklahoma were shocked when they found out about these laws. Over 60 activists assembled in Norman Oklahoma in May to plan some action. From this group, the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice was formed ( This group is having a planning meeting in mid-August to strategize regarding next steps. Also, Jordan Goldberg, attorney from Center from Reproductive Rights in NYC will be in Oklahoma City soon to discuss our options with us.

In addition, Oklahoma now has a vibrant new pro-choice PAC, Sally’s List.

Stillwater, Oklahoma is home to the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the pro-choice women there have a web presence at OK 4 R J.

Additionally, an Oklahoma Women’s Law Center is also in the planning stages.

Stay tuned, Oklahoma’s women are outraged and we plan to let our legislators know it.

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