Mary Alice Carr [right] is vice president for communications at the National Institute for Reproductive Health
As a reproductive rights advocate and a proud mother of two, my blood ran cold as I read about Oklahoma’s new abortion legislation (HB 2656). The state of Oklahoma just decided, and by an appallingly high margin I might add, that a doctor is protected from being sued if he or she chooses not to tell a woman that the baby she is carrying has a birth defect.
State legislators made this decision Tuesday, voting 36-12 in the Senate and 84-12 in the House to override Gov. Brad Henry’s veto of this law. (The Legislature also overrode the governor’s veto of a second egregious law, HB 2780, which forces women to view an ultrasound before having an abortion.)
Oklahoma, what have you done?
Under this new law, a doctor may withhold information, mislead or even blatantly lie to a pregnant woman and her partner about the health of their baby if the doctor so much as thinks that fetal test results would cause a woman to consider abortion.
As expected, the anti-abortion movement is claiming victory. But this bill isn’t “anti-abortion.” It is devastating because it is anti-motherhood and anti-medicine.
When I found out I was pregnant with each of my children, like every woman who has ever undergone fetal testing, I held my breath at each doctor’s appointment. I didn’t let it go until the doctor or the tech said, “Everything looks great.” I seized up when they took out the blood work results and I didn’t relax until I heard, “It all came back negative.”
But a woman in Oklahoma no longer gets to exhale. Because now, when a doctor says, “Everything looks fine,” she has to wonder; does it really? Oklahoma politicians have now said that she can no longer count on the sacred trust that always existed between her and her doctor. A doctor may now lie to her face and, in doing so, deny a woman what is quite possibly the most important piece of information she will ever receive in her life.
The very thought makes my breath catch even now. The information you get on those visits matters to every woman getting prenatal care, regardless of what she decides to do based upon the results. The legislators have decided that a woman, when she becomes pregnant, loses the right to full, honest information from her doctor.
It is her right to know this information. It is how she and her family determine what to do next, not only to decide if they want to continue a pregnancy, but also to consider how they will prepare to care for a special needs child.
What specialist will they turn to? What support will they require? Who will hold their hand in the delivery room if a child is born who will only live an hour, or a day? Does she want to call her own mom in from across the country or does she want to grieve silently with her partner? What will they tell the children they already have?
Doesn’t every family have the right to the information that may help them decide the course of their future or the future of their child? According to the Oklahoma State Legislature, they no longer do.
These politicians have decided they know best what women need. They are wrong.
I ask each politician in Oklahoma who voted yes on this bill: How dare you? How dare you deny a woman the peace of mind that her baby is healthy? How dare you not give her and her family time to prepare if, God forbid, her baby is not? How is this bill “pro-life”? How is this mockery of medical care and paternalistic devaluing of women, “pro-life”?
This bill is anti-mom, it’s anti-doctor and it is anti-family. And all women, regardless of how they feel about abortion, should be appalled. I hope the courts stand up for the women and families whom politicians have turned their backs on and find this law unconstitutional and flat-out wrong.