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Oklahoma court extends bar against law requiring pre-abortion ultrasounds

An Oklahoma district judge issued an injunction [text] Monday morning extending a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of a new law [HB 2780 text, DOC] that requires women seeking abortions [JURIST news archive] to have an ultrasound and hear a description of the fetus. The Center for Reproductive Rights [advocacy website] in New York sued to have the law declared unconstitutional in May. "Today's ruling is a great victory for women in Oklahoma. The government has no business mandating to doctors how to practice medicine and intruding in women's private medical decisions," Stephanie Toti, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a press release [text]. Abortion rights groups call Oklahoma's ultrasound law the strictest such requirement in the nation. The text of the law states that its purpose is "in order for the woman to make an informed decision." Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich [official website] said the order would remain in effect at least until a hearing Jan. 21.

Last month, Florida Governor Charlie Crist [official website] vetoed [veto letter text, PDF; JURIST report] a bill [HB 1143 materials] that also would have required women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound or listen to a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure would be performed. Crist said that "personal views should not result in laws that unwisely expand the role of government and coerce people to obtain medical tests or procedures that are not medically necessary. In this case, such action would violate a woman's right to privacy." In May, Oklahoma lawmakers approved a bill [JURIST report] requiring women seeking an abortion to complete a questionnaire containing information on marital status, reason for seeking the abortion and whether the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. In April, the Oklahoma Senate voted to override a veto [JURIST report] of two anti-abortion bills, resulting in the bills immediately becoming law. The first bill [HB 2526 text, RTF] prevents "wrongful life" lawsuits in which parents seek damages for a child born with a birth defect because the mother was unable to obtain an abortion. The second bill is the one blocked by the court Monday.

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