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Update on Privacy-Threatening Oklahoma Abortion Law

October 21, 2009

Recently, I and many others wrote about an Oklahoma abortion law that could potentially seriously compromise the privacy (and safety) of women seeking abortions in that state. At issue is the law’s requirement that that each individual form be posted to a publicly available website. While traditionally identifying information would not be included on the form, public posting is unnecessary for data collection and analysis and could still jeopardize women’s privacy (see this post for more on why I think that’s the case).

The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a lawsuit challenging the law. Via Women’s eNews, I learned that a temporary restraining order has been issued to block enforcement of the law until the district court judge has a chance to review the case. Further details about the legal issues and maneuvering are provided in the eNews piece.

Meanwhile, I can’t figure out how the Oklahomans for Life representative who spoke to LifeNews figures that “It is not true, as alleged, that reports about individual women’s abortions will be posted online” given that the law specifically spells out that The Department of Health will make the form and instructions available (Section 5a2), and any physician performing abortions will complete the form (Section 5b) and submit the form (Section 5c), and then “The Department shall post the required Individual Abortion Form on its stable Internet website” (Section 5d). I suppose one could argue that the order here means nothing, that the law just includes a redundant requirement for the Department to post the *blank* form to its website, rather than providing specific step-by-step instructions ending in the posting of the *completed* form to the website. I haven’t seen anyone actually make that argument/interpretation.

The LifeNews piece also bemoans the supposed lack of regulation and research about abortion, while also noting that abortion surveillance data is already by many states (to various degrees of detail, including in, uh, Oklahoma). They fail to acknowledge that posting such individual forms (even without personal names and addresses) can still pose a privacy threat, and is unnecessary for such research and surveillance – but then, they don’t have to acknowledge those very serious issues and explain their rationale for supporting them as long as they refuse to acknowledge that the law actually reads in such a way as to require such postings. Argh.

One Comment leave one →
  1. zaylyn permalink
    October 23, 2009 6:47 pm

    To be fair, I propose:
    Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act II, also known as: “What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander,” requires the following information to be collected about the FATHER of the unborn child and posted on a public website:

    1. Date of abortion
    2. County in which abortion performed
    3. Age of father and difference from age of mother
    4. Marital status of father (married, divorced, separated, widowed, or never married) If married, is he married to the mother of the child or to another woman?
    5. Race of father and if same or different than mother
    6. Occupation of father (specify employer and yearly income)
    7. Residence of father (country, state, county). Same or different household than mother?
    8. Total number of previous pregnancies fathered and the number of different women involved.

    In addition, in an effort to influence the mother’s decision about the abortion, all fathers will be required to offer to contribute $10,000/year for 18 years toward the cost of raising the child.

    I am sure that this information would be much more useful in devising policies to reduce abortions than the information to be collected from the mother!

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