Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why I Don't Live in Oklahoma

Part 3 in a series. If this series keeps going, I might not be able to live in any state. (But, in all fairness, I could probably come up with at least 3 blog topics under the heading "Why I Don't Live in Kansas" and yet I obviously stay in Kansas.)

The Oklahoma state legislature has passed a new law requiring doctors perform an ultrasound before performing an abortion. The doctor must make the screen visible to the woman (though the law does not go so far as to require the woman to look at the screen), the doctor must provide a running commentary on the ultrasound, and must describe the heartbeat and the presence of internal organs, fingers, and toes. I hope this script, unlike the South Dakota one I blogged about previously, is medically and scientifically correct. Apparently the law also makes medical abortions practically impossible by mandating the drugs and follow-up care be administered in a way that doesn't comport with the standard care protocol. I have no idea how this law would affect Plan B. Would a hospital be required to perform an ultrasound on a rape victim before giving her the drug that will make sure she isn't pregnant by her rapist?

Is there any other area in which legislators feel this free to interfere in the doctor-patient relationship? Dictate specific procedures and dictate the script the doctor must read while performing the procedure? It is micromanagement of a sort we're not supposed to want in a free society. I feel confident in saying that the legislators who passed this particular bill would generally be of the more conservative ilk who would wish for ever smaller government. But of course they will abandon that core principle if the issue is right.

I am all for informed consent, in all medical procedures. But we've already got mechanisms in place to protect patients. They can sue in civil court if they feel they were not fully informed and made the wrong decision based on their lack of information. Medical boards can censure or suspend licenses of doctors who fail to inform their patients before performing procedures, I presume. And there are criminal battery laws, too, if the patient really doesn't consent at all. So why do we need a legislature to step in and dictate the steps a doctor must take to assure a patient is fully informed before consenting to this particular procedure? And why isn't the legislature so concerned about the patients facing open heart surgery or having their wisdom teeth removed?

Because, once again, this law isn't about making sure women have as much information as possible before making their decision. No, this law is about making sure women don't have abortions. The lawmakers who passed it want to make it as practically and emotionally difficult as they possibly can. They hope to make doctors throw up their hands at all the micromanagement and just get out of the business altogether. They hope to shame, harangue, and batter women into making the "right" decision. They can't convince the majority in America that all abortion should be illegal so they're trying to chip away at it bit by bit.

But I'm guessing that the legislature of Oklahoma has other things it could spend its time on. Education, criminal laws, energy policy just for starters. So legislature, why don't you deal with thsoe issues and leave the doctors and patients alone to decide when to choose constitutionally-protected medical procedures?


Stacy said...

I agree with you on the micro-managing thing, and the they don't make you have an ultrasound before they take out your pancreas or whatever.

This law or proposition is stupid.

But, as a general rule, in a social sense, I'm all about making abortion emotionally difficult. Specifically, as I've said over on my side, for abortions of convenience.

Dan said...

Doctor's don't preform ultrasounds. Neither do nurses. Ultrasounds are done by medical techs, who take the pictures, make the measurements, and highlight the profiles the doctor wants to see. When a doctor is in the room during an ultrasound, something big is going on.

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