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Chipping Away at Abortion Rights

by JAYNE LYN STAHL

South Dakota banned abortion back in 2006, but it is only one of several states, including Arkansas, that has tried to severely restrict a woman’s access to legal abortion. Indeed, the Roe v. Wade deconstructionists have been chipping away at a woman’s legal access to a clinically safe abortion.

While the South Dakota ban was quickly overturned, there is only one authorized abortion clinic in the state which means that women often have to travel hundreds of miles to terminate an unwanted, or disabling pregnancy.

In Texas and Mississippi, women must undergo counseling and get parental consent before they can obtain an abortion if they’re underage. Arkansas, you’ll recall, passed a partial birth abortion ban back in February, 2009. But, what’s happening now in Oklahoma takes the cake.

Oklahoma’s most recent abortion bill, HB 2656, recently passed by a wide margin and, among other things, it immunizes doctors from litigation should they decline to inform their patients that the fetus they are carrying has a known birth defect.

Under the new law, a doctor may totally misrepresent the health of the fetus, and withhold results of fetal tests if they are concerned that a woman might seek an abortion, or for any reason. Indeed, a doctor may lie to a patient, and tell her that her pregnancy is a normal one even when there is abundant evidence that either the health of the fetus, or the life of the mother is at risk.

The new state law also mandates that pregnant women to undergo a vaginal probe, in addition to an ultrasound, before having an abortion. The probe enables the patient to witness the size, and cardiac activity before the procedure. Doctors, in Oklahoma, will now be required to enable the woman to see ultrasound images of the fetus, according to the Associated Press. Forcing a woman to go through the probe, and detailed description of the embryo after she has already made up her mind to have the procedure can only viewed as unconstitutional in that it violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Over the past week, the anti-immigration law passed by Arizona has eclipsed media coverage of this important ruling. To compromise the integrity of a woman’s control over her own body is as much a civil rights issue as to demand papers that prove legal citizenship.

Earlier Monday, Oklahoma’s attorney general reportedly agreed to temporarily stop enforcement of the new law. A temporary block is not good enough. Roe v. Wade grants a woman the right to self-determination over her own body, a right that is as sacrosanct as the right to vote. The Oklahoma law must be thrown out, and denounced as unconstitutional before it is allowed to replicate, and and spread virally.

JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

 

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JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

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