May 4, 2012 — The Oklahoma House on Wednesday voted 89-0 to approve a bill (HB 2561) that would allow women to file lawsuits against abortion providers and anyone who prescribes abortion-inducing drugs if they violate state abortion law, the AP/Wichita Falls Times Record News reports. The bill now advances to Gov. Mary Fallin (R) for consideration (AP/Wichita Falls Times Record News, 5/3).
Under HB 2561, lawsuits would be permitted if providers do not abide by a state law that requires women to undergo an ultrasound and fetal heartbeat monitoring prior to abortion care. The bill also would apply if a provider violates a state law that requires notification of a minor's parents 48 hours before abortion care. Suits also could be filed because of complications related to an abortion.
According to The Oklahoman, the suits could seek actual and punitive damages equal to those for the wrongful death of a child, including damages for mental anguish and emotional distress. The women, or the parents or guardians of a minor, would have two years from the time of the abortion procedure to file a suit.
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma and a former Democratic state lawmaker, said the intent of the bill is to intimidate abortion providers. "There seems to be no other reason for singling them out for special treatment in our malpractice law," he said, adding, "Any doctor, whether they're an abortion provider or otherwise, ought to be held responsible for their professional negligence."
Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R), the bill's author, said he hopes the legislation will reduce the number of abortions in Oklahoma (McNutt, The Oklahoman, 5/3).
Repro Health Watch — an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report — compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws and ballot initiatives affecting women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as litigation in response to those provisions.