Update on Privacy-Threatening Oklahoma Abortion Law
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.