Oklahoma House approves bill allowing lawsuits over abortions

The measure would allow civil action to be filed against abortion providers who fail to follow the informed consent provisions of Oklahoma law related to abortions.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: May 3, 2012
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The House of Representatives unanimously approved a measure Wednesday that would allow a woman to bring a lawsuit against abortion providers and prescribers of abortion-inducing drugs or chemicals for not following voluntary and informed consent provisions of state law related to abortions.

House Bill 2561, which passed the House 89-0 with no debate or discussion, now heads to the governor for her approval. It passed the Senate last week 33-9.

A Senate amendment to the measure removed liability for doctors who refer a woman with a problem pregnancy to an abortion provider unless they knew the abortion provider had violated the state's informed consent law.

“If you're a doctor, you'd better Google and find out who you're referring to,” said Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, the author of HB 2561.

Wesselhoft, R-Moore, said abortion providers or those prescribing abortion-inducing drugs could be sued by failing to follow state law that requires an ultrasound image and heart tone monitoring be provided before an abortion is performed. They also must inform the parents if the woman is a minor, he said. Parents are to be notified at least 48 hours in advance before a minor can receive an abortion.

The woman, or her parents or guardian if she is a minor, could file a lawsuit for actual and punitive damages equal to those for the wrongful death of a child whose life was aborted. It can include damages for mental anguish and emotional distress. Any lawsuit would have to be filed within two years of the abortion.

The lawsuit could be filed because of something that went wrong during the abortion or if the abortion provider violated voluntary and informed consent provisions of state law related to abortions.

Wesselhoft called HB 2561 one of the toughest anti-abortion measures passed by the Legislature.

“It will hold the abortionist accountable for wrongful death for the first time” for violating the state's informed consent law, he said.