Oklahoma’s latest abortion-related senate bill, which the house passed last week, has the potential to limit abortion access for millions of Oklahomans, and some experts argue that it could negatively affect other areas of health care statewide.
Senate Bill 1848 creates various standards for abortion clinics to be adopted by the State Board of Health, the most controversial of which is an admitting-privileges requirement for physicians.
The law would require a physician with admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic to be present during all abortions performed.
If the bill becomes law, two of Oklahoma’s three abortion clinics could be shut down, said Tamya Cox, staff attorney and lobbyist for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.
Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa each have one clinic; the state has one abortion facility per 1.27 million residents.
With the admitting-privilege requirement, Oklahoma could be left with one clinic for its 3.8 million residents.
Although some argue that requirement protect patients, others argue that it adds no safety.
“If emergency care is needed, ambulances and hospitals must provide care for patients regardless of whether a doctor has admitting privileges,” Planned Parenthood said in a news release. “Admitting privileges do not heighten the standard of care a patient will receive.”
Some medical professionals argue that the legislation is meant only to serve as a blockade to abortion access.
“Bills like this get passed under the guise of safety,” said a nurse at Reproductive Services, a Tulsa abortion clinic. She wished to keep her name confidential.
Abortions are as dangerous as all other outpatient services, she said. But there is no pending legislation requiring admitting privileges for those.
She used an example to illustrate her point.
Podiatrists also perform outpatient surgeries, she said. If a patient gets his or her toenail removed, it can become infected. The infection can spread into the blood stream and cause the patient to become septic.
“Should that podiatrist be required to have admitting privileges?” she said. “He’s a foot doctor. He’s not going to treat a blood infection.”
The bill doesn’t mention other outpatient services, only abortion-related ones, but there is still a problem, she said.
“Yes, (the bill) is geared toward abortion, but it sets a precedent.”The precedent is the most dangerous part of the bill, said Stillwater’s State Representative Cory Williams, who was one of the fifteen representatives who voted “no” last week.
The bill is an opportunity for legislators to show that they are pro-life, he said. Ultimately, the bill would do nothing to protect patients. With the exception of the admitting privileges regulations, all other suggested regulations are already in place in the medical community.
The bill dictates that the State Board of Health, a state agency, regulates treatment in abortion clinics. It’s placing government between doctors and patients, he said.
“I’m an attorney. I don’t think you want me telling your doctor how to do brain surgery.”