A national group called American Victims of Abortion on Friday was granted the right to intervene in an Oklahoma County lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a new Oklahoma abortion law.
The law being challenged would require doctors or their technicians to show pregnant women ultrasound images of their fetuses and discuss those images with their patients before abortions are performed. Patients could choose to avert their eyes.
Oklahoma County District Judge Noma Gurich has delayed implementation of the law pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
American Victims of Abortion is a unit within the National Right to Life Committee that represents women who say they have been traumatized or harmed by abortion experiences.
Although Gurich ruled American Victims of Abortion can assist the Oklahoma attorney general's office in defending the new law, she rejected similar intervention requests from the Justice Foundation and three Oklahoma women who said they had traumatic experiences involving abortion and wanted to support the ultrasound law.
Gurich said Justice Foundation participation would be “redundant” and the three women could participate as “fact witnesses,” but not as parties to the lawsuit.
Two of the three women, Pam Brown of Norman and Sherrie Sjodin of the Tulsa area, were present in the courtroom and said they were satisfied that they would have a chance to be heard.
Brown told The Oklahoman she went to a doctor seeking an abortion, but backed out after catching a fleeting glimpse of an ultrasound image that her doctor had intended not to show her.
“I saw two heads,” Brown said.
Brown said she demanded a closer look and confirmed she was pregnant with twins. The discovery prompted her to back away from the abortion.
“I have healthy 20-year-old twin boys now,” she said, adding she believes all women considering abortions should view ultrasounds before making their final decisions.
Sjodin said she had an abortion in 1979, but now regrets it.
“I've had nightmares,” she said. “I've experienced quite a bit of mental and some physical distress.”
Sjodin said she believes she would have changed her mind if she had been shown an ultrasound image.
Seeking to overturn the ultrasound law are abortion providers Dr. Larry Burns of Norman and the Reproductive Services clinic in Tulsa.
Suzanne Stolz, their attorney, said her clients think the new law would infringe on the doctor-
She argued against allowing American Victims of Abortion and the other entities to participate in the lawsuit, contending they had “nothing more than a general interest in the outcome of the case” and that their participation would delay the trial.
Attorney Samuel Casey, who represented all the entities that sought to intervene, assured the judge he was committed to speeding the trial up, rather than slowing it down, because the law can't go into effect until the lawsuit is over — and only then if supporters of the new law win.