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.