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Oklahoma Pols Want a Database of Everyone Who Has an Abortion

Oklahoma Legislature
Oklahoma Legislature

An Oklahoma bill that would create a database of every person who obtained an abortion is one step closer to becoming law.

The so-called Oklahoma Right To Human Life Act, authored by state Rep. Kevin West, passed out of the Public Health Committee last week and moves to a full House vote next month. The bill would require the Oklahoma State Department of Health to create a database in which each patient is identified by a “unique patient identifier” to track how many abortions a patient has and when. That information and the identity of the patient could be released to authorities under a court order.

Oklahoma already outlaws all abortions except when necessary to save the life of the mother, without exceptions for rape or incest.

Tamya Cox-Toure, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said the law could discourage patients from seeking abortions during a medical emergency and discourage doctors from performing them.

“People who are ending their pregnancy for medical reasons—to save the health of the pregnant person—are the people who are going to be part of this database,” she told The Daily Beast.

“Even in a situation where ending the pregnancy saves the life of the pregnant person, there's still a lot of stigma that happens,” she added. “So the idea that a patient is forced to give this information goes against doctor-patient confidentiality as well as patient-informed consent.”

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House Minority leader Cyndi Munson agreed, telling The Daily Beast: “It’s just a way to continue to create fear and shame, not just for those seeking abortions but also any physician who provides reproductive healthcare.”

The bill sparked heated debate within the committee, including from state Rep. Trish Ranson, who called it a “major privacy issue.”

"There is a relationship between patient and doctor that is sacred,” Ransom said, according to Fox 25. “And the fact that that would be... reported elsewhere, that there would be a number assigned to the woman is... just alarming."

West defended the bill at the hearing, saying he wanted to track abortions similarly to how public health authorities track causes of death. But he allowed that he might be willing to tweak the bill language to make patients less identifiable.

West said his bill was written with help from the Alliance Defending Freedom, which—as Jezebel pointed out—is the conservative legal advocacy group that argued the Supreme Court case overturning Roe v Wade. The group is also behind a lawsuit seeking to ban mifepristone, a drug used in medication abortions, and just Tuesday filed a brief with the Supreme Court asking it to uphold an Idaho anti-abortion law.

The bill would also require doctors to submit a written justification, under oath, for why they performed an abortion and why they considered the situation an emergency. Anyone who provides an abortion outside of a life-threatening emergency could be sued and have their license revoked.

Committee members expressed concern that the law could also be used to ban certain forms of contraception, such as intrauterine devices, though West said he intended to edit the bill to focus on over-the-counter emergency contraception like Plan B, according to The Oklahoman.

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Several states with abortion bans like Oklahoma’s have struggled to define what constitutes a medical emergency, which some patients claim caused doctors to deny them care in life- or health-threatening situations.

One patient in Texas, Katie Cox, sued the state to allow her to terminate her pregnancy after she was repeatedly hospitalized for complications and her fetus was diagnosed with a fatal genetic condition. The Texas Supreme Court denied her request and she was forced to leave the state for treatment. Twenty-two other women are suing the state in a separate case, claiming they did not receive abortion care for dangerous pregnancies.

Still, Sam Paisley, press secretary for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, called the Oklahoma law “particularly concerning and reprehensible,” even in a “country full of Republican legislators trying to outright ban abortion.”

“Banning IUDs and other forms of contraceptives, equating the abortion pill with drug trafficking, and creating a statewide database of women who have received abortions are the latest in a series of extreme proposals we are seeing play out across the country,” she said.

Lawmakers on the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee advanced a separate bill last week that would let prosecutors bring felony drug-trafficking charges against people who have or deliver abortion-inducing medication, such as mifepristone. The number of people ordering abortion pills online surged following the overturn of Roe, as they can provide a safe alternative for those whose access to in-clinic abortions are limited by new, anti-abortion laws.

Under the bill, anyone found to be delivering abortion pills or possessing them with an intent to deliver could face 10 years in prison or $100,000 in fines.

Munson says she worries that Oklahomans are growing numb to anti-abortion bills because of the sheer number introduced in the state legislature following the fall of Roe.

“My fear is that the public just sort of expects all of this to happen,” she said. “I fear that people maybe feel like they can’t make a difference.”

“Because these move so quickly, I’m just worried they’re passing too easily,” she added.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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