On Tuesday, the Oklahoma House Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 614, which forces doctors to counsel patients seeking medical abortions with false statements claiming the procedure is reversible; doctors who refuse to lie to their patients would be guilty of a jailable felony.
The law's backer is Rep Mark Lepak [R-9, (405) 557-7380), who falsely claimed that "medical science has developed a method for reversing the effects of a medication abortion and saving the life of an unborn child."
This belief is widespread among anti-abortion extremists, and has prompted the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to issue a statement in 2017 that reads, "Claims regarding abortion 'reversal' treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards."
Four other Republican-led states (Arkansas, Idaho, South Dakota, and Utah) have passed laws requiring doctors to tell this lie to their patients and seven more are considering it, as part of a nationally coordinated, nonconsensual Handmaid's Tale LARP that made significant advances with the elevation to the Supreme Court of accused serial rapist Brett Kavanaugh.
Arizona was the first state to pass such a law, but it was later overturned after a court challenge because the law's proponents couldn't find a single credible expert to testify that "abortion reversal" was a thing.
The bills are grounded in a series of flawed and deeply unethical experiments performed by Dr. George Delgado of Southern California.
Anti-abortion extremists have made forcing doctors to lie to patients a centerpiece of their tactics: a string of state laws also require doctors to give medically unsupported warnings to abortion patients about a supposed (and unproven) link between breast cancer and abortion. These deceptive practices also extend to the creation of "crisis pregnancy centers" — fake abortion clinics operated by anti-abortion extremists where women are deceived into thinking that they can get an abortion, and are then systematically lied to about the supposed risks of the procedure.
Other anti-abortion laws passed by state Republicans have included rules requiring doctors to sexually assault women seeking abortions by inserting medically unnecessary ultrasound wands into their vaginas.
For nearly a decade, Dr. Stephanie Ho has been providing abortion care in Arkansas, a state where lawmakers have worked steadily to curb abortion access under the pretense of "protecting" women. They've tried to ban medication abortion altogether and have devised informed consent materials that are medically inaccurate — including requiring doctors to counsel patients of the possibility of reversing medication abortion, a measure passed in 2015. "Basically, they're using my mouth to lie to patients because they can't do that themselves," Ho told The Intercept.
The requirement is a dangerous intrusion on the doctor-patient relationship, she argues. After giving patients the inaccurate information the state forces her to provide, she then backs up and tells them what is accurate. It has confused and infuriated a number of her patients, who have asked why the state makes her lie to them. "That's a really hard conversation to have," Ho said.
She penned an explanatory letter to provide to every patient in this situation. "By inserting themselves into our conversation [state lawmakers] have violated our first amendment rights to free speech and have intruded into the time-honored doctor-patient relationship that we share at this critical time in your life," reads the letter. "It is, however, the current state law in Arkansas."
Oklahoma Bill Would Force Doctors to Lie to Patients by Telling Them That Abortions Can Be Reversed [Jordan Smith/The Intercept]