Drawing the Line in Oklahoma

While it gives me great pain to take side with abortion rights activists, in the case of Oklahoma’s new legislation, the Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act, I simply cannot help it. According to a report by Fox News, the new state law would “require doctors to release detailed information” about women who have abortions in Oklahoma — and publish that information on a public Web site.

While the legislation appears to not go so far as to require reporting and dissemination of specifically identifying information about the women, according to the report it does require publication of information with regard to a woman’s race, marital status, financial circumstances, years of education, number of previous pregnancies, and reason for seeking termination of the pregnancy in question.

“Doctors who fail to provide such information,” the Fox News report states, “will be criminally penalized and stripped of their medical licenses.”

Those of you who have been around here for a while know my personal ideological history. Up until about ten years ago, I was a liberal Democrat who simply did not know better. With regard to abortion, I was pro-choice up until the day my daughter was born, six weeks premature, and I had my first opportunity to spend time in a neo-natal intensive care unit. From that point on, from the very moment I first set eyes on the little baby in the incubator-type device next to my daughter, a child that was barely any bigger than a soda can yet was as alert as a three-week old baby, I was changed forever.

My recent libertarian streak still hasn’t fully reached my feelings on abortion, though I do believe that the matter should be left up to the people in each state to decide. I do not believe that it is the function of the federal government to be involved in banning or allowing such procedures nationwide, though I do support the Hyde Amendment, which enjoins the use of federal funds for abortion-related purposes.

All that being said, what Oklahoma state lawmakers are doing is absolutely despicable. It is clearly an overt political action meant to intimidate women who, for some reason or another, are intent upon snuffing out the life of an unborn child.

While such obvious intimidation will undoubtedly result in young lives saved, consider the slippery slope and consequences for, say, the continued debate over the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

Anti-gun activists and municipalities alike have been arguing, for a long time now, that concealed carry permit records should be publicly published in newspapers and on municipal Web sites. Plain and simple, the move is intended to intimidate gun owners into not going the extra mile and obtaining a permit to carry. In that respect, I don’t see much of a difference between those efforts and the Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act.

Over the next day or two, you’ll likely hear that the legislation violates the right to privacy as preserved by the Fourth Amendment. I don’t think that’s necessarily it. First of all, there is no constitutional right to privacy; if you’re looking for it, look between the constitutional rights to homeownership and free health care — it’s just not in there. This resembles more closely a patient’s privacy issue pursuant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, otherwise known as HIPAA, or more commonly as “the reason you need to sign so many more forms in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.”

Any way you look at it, though, this measure is bad news all around. Perhaps, if Oklahoma lawmakers are looking for a way to reduce the number of abortions, they should put the idea of a total ban in front of the people of that state at the next election. Or, for starters, they could implement legislation requiring that all women seeking termination of a pregnancy undergo an ultrasound procedure beforehand in order to ensure that they can see and hear that it is indeed a young life being snuffed out, and not just another medical procedure.

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Comments

  1. Gail B says:

    "Up until about ten years ago, I was a liberal Democrat who simply did not know better."

    Up until about ten years ago, being a liberal Democrat wasn't a bad thing.

    It's not clear to me *why* OK passed that bill–I just woke up; the coffee hasn't finished perking; but I think it's 9:05 instead of 15 til 1:00.

    Perhaps some of your readers from OK can shed some light on the reason behind this piece of bad legislation.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Clearly, this seems like good intentions gone terribly bad. Preventing abortions, especially those funded by taxpayer dollars, is the intent, but purposely subjecting a private citizen to public ridicule and worse, seems totally wrong.

  3. Blad_Rnr says:

    Jeff,
    That's a stretch to equate abortion details with hand gun records. The fact is no society will last long term when it continues to ignore the rights of the unborn. Abortion should be fought at every level. Make it harder for women to get abortions and maybe they will re-think having one performed. This is akin to making Hitler keep public records of those he murdered in concentration camps. Would you be opposed to that? I love your website but you are wrong on this issue.

  4. Rix says:

    I agree, this law is utterly repulsive. Even though I am rather ambivalent on the issue of abortions, I'd rather see them banned outright – or better, pass the ball to the individual states – than have women subjected to such unexplicably severe intrusion upon their privacy.

    "Jewish position on abortions is that a fetus is still a fetus until it gets out of medical school." –Unknown

  5. Save our babies says:

    We tried the ultrasound tactic, it didn't take. Anything that saves the lives of the innocent is a good thing. Don't confuse that with gun rights. Wake up man!

  6. MEP says:

    Ok, so you are for a state dealing with issues locally but then you complain about how they do it because they did not do it the way you would have liked. Wow, that is very telling. Are you sure you are not still a liberal democrat?

    Michael

  7. Anonymous says:

    Although I am adamantly against abortion as a means of birth control (I know that that leaves loopholes, but I do that intentionally in order to make some forward progress on this issue), I would welcome the Federal government abolishing all laws regarding this subject. As you say, Jeff, it would be a step forward to move the issue down to the state level so that we felt that we had more say in the matter.

    From that point on, we just might be able to – at least in some states – agree that life really does commence at conception and hence changing the pivot basis of argument from "choice" to "the life of the child vs the life of the mother".

    There are already more than enough "choices" that precede pregnancy that give the mother "control of her body". It's just that, IN MOST CASES, those choices interfere with unresticted, recreational sex.

    More and more, we plummet towards mindless animals rather than the type of human that our Founders based the Constitution on. Just give us free stuff, including sex (as long as we dont "do it" in front of our college roommates), so we don't have to be responsible and we'll be content.

    This is the mentality that forms the basis of the Obama administration.

    Old Bob

  8. JEFF SCHREIBER says:

    Wrong, Michael. I'm for the least amount of government involvement, but in instances where it is necessary, I'm for the PEOPLE of the states to make the decision through specific referenda.

    Look, I want nothing more than to err on the side of life. But this sort of intimidation–and that's exactly what it is, and consider how it could be done for issues other than abortion–runs afoul of the principles upon which the nation was founded.

    Oklahoma should put it to a vote to ban abortion outright. I'd support the heck out of that. Doing it this way, however, is like writing a blank check for such tactics to be used in the future in over debates.

  9. MEP says:

    This is not about intimidation, it is about cause and effect, about consequences for actions. You make a poor comparison to gun owners because owning a gun is not intrinsically evil. The way voted in by the legislation is an incentive to do good. If owning a gun was evil, then I would support this measure for gun owners. I agree that a vote on the procedure being allowed or not would be better, but that does not mean that this way is bad.

    I read your blog regularly so I know you are not a liberal democrat, that was a question I proposed just to get you to rethink your position.

  10. JEFF SCHREIBER says:

    The root of this tactic, Michael, is the same as the root of the White House's snitch Web site which emerged as the the health care debate intensified.

    The White House views socialized medicine and a single-payer system as the best possible way, and they used intimidation to accomplish that means.

    I believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity of life, but using intimidation to get closer to that means isn't the way to do it.

    Again, consider the slippery slope. Vote Republican? Your name will be published. Frequent conservative Web sites? Your name will be published.

    This is the absolute wrong way to go about it. It reeks of Chicago-style politics.

    Jesus taught us that you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. This intimidation tactic is a superficial, short-term fix. It does nothing to change the mentality that results in abortion on demand, and it is that mentality that must change.

  11. Bodenzee says:

    Gail,

    You have to have live in OK or TX (I did for 30 years) to fully appreciate the mentality of the religious folk there. Reason does not prevail…think creationism and the highjacking of school text book selection to promulgate dogma.

    Many of these people need to hold someone/something responsible, to be told what to do, and to compel others to "think" as they do.

    This law is nothing more than intimidation. Because we have the tools today to collect voluminous amounts of data and crunch it doesn't mean we should. It also doesn't mean that any value is added by extensive analysis of the data. I once had a professor that categorized this incessant analysis of data mathematical masturbation. I think he was correct.

  12. MEP says:

    Jeff,

    I just don't see the slippery slope you are professing. What is so bad about shining light on darkness? If the slippery slope leads to righteousness, then bring it on. What does a person in a state of grace have to hide?

    Michael

  13. MUJERLATINA says:

    As a pro-life physician it pains me to say that many of my patients have had repeated abortions — using it as their preferred choice of birth control. It's disgusting. One of my patients had a second trimester abortion and later told me that, in the recovery room, women were lined up on stretchers and handed LOLLIPOPS after the procedure!! She felt debased, infantilized and traumatized. I believe that the vast majority of abortions are performed because the pregnancy is "inconvenient" — either to the woman or her partner. Exposing the "inconvenient truth" — without divulging names — is a way to show the world the preposterous nature of the abortion industry.

  14. JEFF SCHREIBER says:

    I understand where you're coming from. It tears me up inside.

    But it all depends upon the definition of "darkness." To us, the destruction of life is darkness. To the left, to the people who don't care about the unborn and gladly hand over liberty without a second thought, "darkness" could be conservatism, freedom, liberty … anything.

  15. MEP says:

    Jeff,

    Darkness is not subjective. It is what it is and just because someone says something isn't or that something is, does not make it so. Liberty can not be achieved by being a slave to sin. I am not trying to win over people that are blinded to the truth, I am trying to win over you. Are you for GOD or country? One goes on without the other. Even the motto of our troops is GOD, country, corps. The order is relevant. Abortion rights is not freedom, it is license to do bad. There is a huge difference. True freedom is having the ability to choose what is good, otherwise you will be a slave to sin.

    Michael

  16. JEFF SCHREIBER says:

    I understand completely, Michael. I really do. Our country, after all, was founded with the hand of Providence.

    The problem is that the natural rights guaranteed by God and preserved by our founding documents have been hijacked by those who care little about either.

    Primary among those rights is the right to life, and I'm all for preserving it. Mujerlatina makes an interesting (and devastating) point — perhaps there are other ways to provide that sort of information as to repeated abortions other than blanket intimidation.

    I don't know. I don't pretend to have all the answers. I just know that if we give the government an inch, they take a mile.

    This issue tears me up inside.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I don't beleive in abortion and would never suggest it as an option to anyone. If my wife was ever considering it, I would do everything in my power to prevent it. However, I do not want the government involved whatsoever in any aspect of that discussion or decision.

    Whether or not the OK law becomes a deterrent, it seems that it's only real purpose would be to build a database and create a profile of women prone to having abortions. This would only serve to demonize a generalized segment of the population of which specific individuals may actually be adamantly opposed to abortion.
    No good will come of this and it just represents bigger and more intrusive government.

  18. Boston Blackie says:

    MEP- Without you signing off as Michael, I could tell you were male. Unless you are female, you can not truly understand this slippery slope. I am 100% pro life but I have never had to make that type of decision and neither will you. The closest I came to it was when pregnant, I was told my daughter may have downs syndrome. Thankfully, more testing proved them wrong but for weeks I understood the choices some may make, though I couldn't imagine ending a pregnancy then or now no matter the outcome of the testing. We DO need to reduce abortions because we all know it will never be completely outlawed but putting that info out for all to see is so wrong on so many levels. Next they will be listing YOUR sexual partners and using the excuse of tracking STDs, is that OK as well. I play by the rules but I don't trust the government.

  19. Dee says:

    In reading your post, Jeff, the fact that the state wants to post this information on a public website upsets me. To me this is a violation of the HIPPA act just as the initially discussed proposal that once the government has a public option for health insurance all of our medical records would be posted on a government website supposedly to improve access to records. However, I can understand gathering some of this information for reasearch in trying to understand if there are contributing factors in women who have abortions and if anything can be done to change or educate women in order to reduce abortions. Public posting is appalling. If a reputable researcher wanted to do research with the goal of understanding the backgrounds of women getting abortions in order to improve education of options to abortion and therefore reducing the number of abortions, I would hope that such a researcher would be able to gather this information with the assistance of the MD's involved.
    I worked in a trauma intensive care unit for 10 years. Many of the patients were young males (16-25 years old). I gathered some info on our patients,in order to get a better picture of what factors were similar in the majority of these patients and what could be done to improve these statistics. I found that the majority were young, unemployed, did not finish high school, financed either by illegal means or family members, and single.

  20. MEP says:

    Boston Blackie,

    I do not trust the government either.

    I have to list my wife on many government documents, so they already have a record of my sexual partners. So yes, I say that is o.k. Do you think we should turn a blind eye to adultery and not expose it? Why is it the default position of people, siding and protecting the perp and not the victim. Do you think exposing a politician's adulterous actions and making it public wrong? We live in a community and each persons actions has a positive or negative effect on the community as a whole directly or indirectly, so don't give me the excuse that a politician is a public servant and you and I aren't.

  21. MEP says:

    Also, since names are not submitted, then privacy has not been violated. There is no way to argue against this.

  22. TNelson says:

    Having been told by doctors at the Mayo clinic we may want to consider an abortion of our son 12 years ago because of possible birth defects, I am totally against the practice from the day our son was born. The doctors tried to scare us into an abortion, I could go on but you get the idea. That was a tough 9 months, not knowing for sure. He was born with clubbed feet, but no other problems. Today he has no lasting effects other than those associated to children with clubbed feet, but is handicapped in no other ways. He excels in school and is our only child. We have tried for other children, but he is all we have been blessed with and that is fine by us. Our one chance to this point…anyway. Based on my experience, abortion is clearly murder. This may seem cold, but I do believe there are indeed instances wgere homicide is justifiable, such as murderers, pedophile rapists, etc. etc. There can be an instance where abortion may be justifiable, but just like any type of homicide, it should be clearly defined by law. That law IS NOT constitutional. We do have certain rights to privacy guaranteed to us by the constitution, but does that mean I should be able to kill my son now as long as I keep it private, I mean, since he was practically dead in the eyes of the doctors, what diference would it make to anybody but us? Of course not. Absurd, isn't it? Yet we do so with the unborn everyday and hide it behind a privacy issue. I do believe that women have the right to privacy and understand the slippery slope argument, but just like any person who kills someone in self defense or otherwise, what kind of privacy should one expect for homicide, justifiable or not? Should not society be the judge to some extent?

  23. Blad_Rnr says:

    Jeff, I understand your argument and I thank you for being respectful as all the others have been here. That's why I love your site and read it daily! :-) I just think the gun control issue is a stretch as I said above, but I understand your point. Agree to disagree. Cheers!

  24. Anonymous says:

    I am for states rights. If you live in OK and don't want to be on a list, then cross state lines. Otherwise, I am thinking it is perfectly reasonable to publish a list of murderers…. that is, if you agree that abortion is murder. I do.

  25. Robert Wallace says:

    Jeff-

    What makes you think that the law is designed to intimidate women? Speaking as someone who has been involved in the pro-life movement more or less my whole life that has *never* been an objective of myself or anyone that I've ever spoken too.

    On the other hand, I know how frustrating it can be to argue abortion policy in the absence of hard facts. We know that more than 90% of abortions are done for elective reasons, but the only reason we know that is because there are a handful of states that tracked that kind of data for various periods of time. If the number wasn't so high or if there was more state-to-state or time-dependent variation we'd be blind.

    Now maybe I'm missing something, but if the data is not personally identifiable and is asking such basic questions as "why are you getting an abortion?" then I fail to see how it could intimidate women even if that was the plan (and I don't buy that it is the plan).

    Have you ever had surgery? That's what (surgical) abortion is: outpatient surgery. If you ever have had outpatient surgery you know that there are quite literally REAMS of paperwork, and yet when I had eye surgery or my skin graft no one protested that the paperwork was designed to intimidate me not have the procedures done.

    It looks like basic information-gathering to me, and I don't see why it's even controversial except for the left's desire to enshrine religion as some kind of political sacrament.

  26. Robert Wallace says:

    From the article:

    "Davis, who is working closely with the New York-based abortion rights group Center for Reproductive Rights, said such detailed demographic information will make it possible to identify patients, especially those who live in small towns."

    And yet:

    "Sullivan said the suggestion that women from small communities will be easily identified has been "misrepresented." He said that of the 77 counties in Oklahoma, only three have abortion providers."

    Davis is fear-mongering. There is absolutely no conceivable way that you'll be able to identify an individual based on the county where they got an abortion if there are only 3 such counties in the entire state. It is factually absurd.

    I'm sorry to say this, Jeff, but you're playing directly into the hands of pro-choice fear-mongering. They are manufacturing a threat to privacy where absolutely none whatsoever exists.

  27. Robert Wallace says:

    Found this link: http://www.statehealthfacts.org/profileind.jsp?rgn=38&cat=10&ind=463

    Abortions in Oklahoma for 2005? 6,641.

    If there's any real threat that you could identify a person based on the questionnaire – even a remote possibility – I would oppose releasing the full data in public. But I just don't buy that there is.

    And given the vulnerable position of women who seek abortions and the history of abortion providers (before and since Roe) of taking advantage of that position by offering shoddy services and under-reporting their errors (not to mention killing babies that survive the procedure) abortion is most definitely something that could use more sunshine for the benefit of all concerned.

  28. Rix says:

    Robert, if I understand Fox's article correctly, the law requires to post identifiable private information on a publicly accessible website. To me, this is completely unacceptable regardless of intent and reason, and I am very far from being an abortion advocate. Such laws give a bad name to both pro-life movement and people of Oklahoma.

  29. Robert Wallace says:

    "if I understand Fox's article correctly, the law requires to post identifiable private information on a publicly accessible website."

    If there is a legit threat to privacy than I would oppose the law with you and Jeff. But I think both of you have been hoodwinked by pro-choice propaganda.

    The Fox news article doesn't say for a fact that you can ID anyone from the info posted. It simply quotes a pro-choice activist who alleges that you can.

    Trouble is that the argument ("if you get an abortion in a small county…") doesn't work.

    There are 77 counties. Only 3 have abortion facilities. So there's safety in numbers (6,000 – 7,000 abortions compressed into 3 counties) and the relationship between where you live and where you get an abortion is obscured because so many people will have to come into a county from outside to get an abortion.

    I would expect a pro-choice activist to lead with their strongest privacy concern. If this is it: then there is no real privacy concern.

    It's a smokescreen to get libertarian-minded folks on their side.

    Sadly it appears to be working.

  30. Robert Wallace says:

    PICTURE DEAD BABIES –

    No.

  31. Rix says:

    Robert,

    I agree that we cannot hand out judgment without knowing the exact details of the legislation. For all of you purists, here is yet another proof that a well crafted lie often works better than God's truth. It sure worked like a charm with "death panels", and I'd like conservatives to master the art of deceit eventually – at least on par with their liberal counterparts.

  32. PICTURE DEAD BABIES says:

    Just make it mandatory to post a .jpg of each aborted fetus on a website with a corresponding id number. The womans discharge papers to carry the website address and her id number in 72 pt font in bloody red.

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