Supreme Court Won’t Hear Case Striking Oklahoma’s Ultrasound Law on Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 12, 2013   |   11:32AM   |   Washington, DC

The Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from Oklahoma official seeking to restore the law the Oklahoma state legislature approved to allow women a chance to see an ultrasound of their unborn child before an abortion. Instead, the Supreme Court justices let stand a state Supreme Court ruling that struck down the 2011 law passed by Oklahoma’s legislature.

The measure allowed women to see the image of the ultrasound of the unborn baby — which is something abortion clinics don’t routinely allow women to see eve though ultrasounds are a normally done prior to abortions to ascertain the age of the baby before the abortion. But, without comment, the Court refused to hear the appeal. The Supreme Court declines most cases that come to it, especially when state Supreme Courts have ruled on the matter, so the decision isn’t terribly surprising.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who appealed the lower courts’ decisions striking down the law, 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.

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.

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



Seh 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.

The case is Pruitt v. Nova Health Systems, 12-1170.