Oklahoma Atty General to Appeal Ultrasound-Abortion Ruling

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 2, 2012   |   12:29PM   |   Washington, DC

The state attorney general in Oklahoma will appeal a ruling issued last week striking down the ultrasound law the state legislature approved to allow women to see one of their unborn baby before considering an abortion.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt plans to appeal the decision, according to a statement he issued Friday. Responding to the decision by Oklahoma County District Judge Bryan Dixon in a summary judgment decision declaring the law unconstitutional, Pruitt said, “The law is about presenting abortion accurately with full information about the outcome.”

“We have an obligation to protect our citizens and make sure abortion is held to the same standard as any medically informed decision,” he added.

According to one news report, Diane Clay, a spokeswoman for Pruitt, the case will be appeared to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which will decide whether to take the case or refer it to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals.

The law came under suit from a Tulsa-based abortion business after the state legislature voted overwhelmingly to override Governor Brad Henry on two pro-life bills, including the ultrasound measure. Hours later, the Center for Reproductive Rights sued to stop enforcement of the pro-life law in Oklahoma County District Court.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Nova Health Systems, which operates an abortion center in Tulsa and has filed lawsuits against pro-life legislation over the years. Larry Burns, who does abortions in Norman, also is a party on the lawsuit.

The suit claims the ultrasound measure is unconstitutionally vague, violates women’s and abortion practitioner’s constitutional speech rights, is an impermissible special law, and “impermissibly burdens the fundamental rights of plaintiffs’ patients to terminate a pregnancy and avoid unwanted speech in a private setting.”

“In addition, the Act exposes abortion providers to an array of intimidating civil and administrative penalties to which no other health care providers in the state are exposed,” the lawsuit complains.

Violations are also punishable by fines of $10,000 for the first offense of an abortion practitioner failing to give a woman a chance to view the ultrasound of her baby. There is a $50,000 fine for the second offense, $100,000 for the third, and more than $100,000 per offense thereafter.

The defendants are Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson; Greg Mashburn, the district attorney for Cleveland, Garvin and McClain Counties; Lyle Kelsey, director of the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision; and Dr. Gordon Laird, president of the State Board of Osteopathic Examiners.

Anne Zachritz with the Andrews Davis law firm is the lead local counsel for the pro-abortion legal group.

Mary Spaulding Balch, an attorney who is the director of the Department of State Legislation at the National Right to Life Committee, talked with LifeNews.com about the decision.

“While the district court’s decision is unfortunate, we fully expect that the case will be appealed and the ultimate outcome will be a victory for mothers and their children,” she said. “Ultrasound is a window to the womb which provides mothers with the opportunity to accurately see their unborn children moving, kicking and very much alive.”

Balch continued:  “Ultrasound laws save lives. According to a 2011 Quinnipiac University study, “ultrasound requirement laws reduce the odds of a woman having an abortion quite substantially.” This finding would explain why ultrasound laws provoke such powerful reactions of our opponents even though ultrasounds are routinely performed and are required by abortion providers prior to the performance of any abortion. This law is necessary to ensure that mothers have the opportunity to view an ultrasound prior to consenting to an abortion.”

“This law protects a mother’s right to know something about her developing unborn child. It gives her a window to her womb. It helps to prevent her from making a decision she may regret for the rest of her life and it empowers her with the most accurate information about her pregnancy so that she can make a truly informed ‘choice’,” Balch added.