A controversial abortion law taking effect in November prevents state-funded hospitals from performing most abortions and could result in pregnant women seeking the procedure in other states. The law, which passed without the governor's signature and over opposition from many in the medical community, forbids state assets — including money and employees — from being used to perform abortions unless the mother's life is in danger or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, which is partially funded through state dollars and is the nexus of referrals across the state for high-risk pregnancies, will almost certainly be affected. Last year, 24 abortions were performed at the Health Sciences Center to save the life of a mother or because the fetus would not survive outside the womb. Under the new law, doctors there would only be able to perform abortions deemed medically necessary if the woman's life was at risk. Dr. Robert Mannel, chairman of the OU Health Sciences Center Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said women with fetuses that will not survive outside the womb may still continue to seek abortions from private physicians and facilities. Rep. Doug Cox, the Legislature's lone doctor, said the law is vague and can be interpreted many ways. Those opposed to the bill, including Cox, say it discriminates against lowerincome Oklahoma women who depend on state-sponsored hospitals. Though the bill seems to exempt anyone in a federal program, including Medicaid, Cox said he fears even private hospitals will be restricted because those accepting Medicaid patients are in fact taking partial state funding for those services.Comments
New law raises concernsA handful of concerned women already have called Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma. They don't know what the new law means for them. Neither does Anita Fream, the organization's chief executive. "If you have a crisis pregnancy, no matter how you pay for your care, it is not clear if there is a hospital in the state that can really help you,” Fream said. This is leading women to look out of state for care, she said. This law will leave Oklahoma doctors, especially those in rural areas and who have little experience with certain birth defects or troubled pregnancies, looking for other places to refer their patients, she said. Concerns also have been raised that the law threatens the accreditation of the OU and Oklahoma State University medical programs. To be nationally accredited, a school must offer students the option of learning what Cox called a "medical termination.” Mannel said the new law will not affect classes in the medical school. "We believe that in-classroom training will suffice in meeting the requirements for accreditation of the program,” he said.
Abortion in Oklahoma6,644 abortions were performed in Oklahoma in 2003, the most recent statistics available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Where: Oklahoma has three elective abortion clinics. These clinics are in: •Norman •Oklahoma City •Tulsa The OU Health Sciences Center does not perform elective abortions.