Saturday, December 19, 2009

Abortion requirements challenged in Oklahoma

A law requiring the information about women who get abortions to be posted online is currently being challenged.

The law, passed in May, requires doctors to fill out a 10-page questionnaire for every abortion performed, including asking the woman about her age, marital status, race and years of education. In all, there are 37 questions the women are to answer.

There is no reason a patient should have to make that data publicly available, in order to have an abortion.  It's an obvious invasion of privacy, regardless of what State Senator Todd Lamb thinks:

Lamb, who is running for lieutenant governor, rejects that notion. How can it violate women's privacy, Lamb said, if their identity is kept confidential?

Unfortunately Lamb is ignorant of the fact that there is plenty of research regarding the indentification of people from seemingly anonymous data.  Netflix was just recently sued, because it was found that the "anonymous" data they released for their Netflix Prize competition still made it possible to uniquely identify the user in 87% of the cases.  With just the information listed above, it is quite possible to vastly narrow down the number of possible women each data point could represent.  Add in 30+ more questions, and the fact that some will have knowledge of a pregnancy, and it is very clear that identification is certainly not impossible, and may even be likely, depending on the questions asked.

What annoys me most, though, is what else Senator Lamb has to say about the legislation:

"If we collect this evidence, we can better treat, we can better counsel, we can better provide alternatives," Lamb said.
"I'm pro-life," he said. "Oklahoma is a conservative state. We are a pro-life state, and I believe it's important public policy to stand on the side of sanctity of life."

This has nothing to do with protecting women, its about trying to sidestep Roe v. Wade and making abortions less accessible.  If your goal is to simply get data to make it easier to treat and counsel women, then why not make it optional?  You'll still get plenty of data.  Why must the data be made public?   Even when the CDC, or another government agency, collects data on other procedures the data remains private.  This is obviously meant to embarrass women, and coerce them not to get an abortion.  It's a dirty tactic, and I sincerely hope this challenge stands up in court.


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