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Oklahoma court strikes down ultrasound abortion law

OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma judge has permanently blocked a state law that requires women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before the procedure.

District Judge Brian Dixon handed down an order Wednesday ruling that the law is unconstitutional and unenforceable. The order says the statute passed in 2010 is an unconstitutional special law because it addresses only patients and physicians concerning abortions and not other medical care.

Enforcement of the law had been blocked since shortly after Nova Health Systems, operator of Reproductive Services of Tulsa, challenged its constitutionality in May 2010. It would have forced a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound, have the image placed in front of her and then hear it described in detail.

It was unclear whether an appeal would be filed.

The author of the ultrasound statute, Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Lindsay, said she was disappointed with the ruling.

"I think women deserve to have all the information necessary before making that decision," Billy said.

Here's how abortion measures are faring in other states:

A controversial bill that proposes to ban most abortions performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy moved closer to becoming law in the Republican-controlled state Legislature after clearing the state Senate.

The bill, which would still allow abortions after 20 weeks in the case of medical emergency, was passed by a mostly party-line 20-10 vote in the Senate on Tuesday. Only a small number of abortions are performed in Arizona after 20 weeks.

State Rep. Kimberly Yee, a Republican who sponsored the bill, said she has the votes needed for the late-term abortion bill to pass the House and head to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to sign. No vote has yet been scheduled, and Brewer, a Republican, has not indicated whether she would sign such a measure.

The Republican-controlled Legislature this week backed away from a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound first, capping weeks of contentious Capitol demonstrations and threats against at least one lawmaker.

The legislation passed the Senate, but stalled in the state House after Rep. Tom Loertscher, a Republican from Iona and chairman of the House Affairs Committee, said Tuesday that he wouldn't schedule a committee hearing.

A bill in the Tennessee Legislature that included the online publication of the names of doctors who perform abortions was withdrawn amid a flurry of controversy last week.

Also withdrawn was a requirement to post statistical information about women who undergo the abortions. Critics said it had the potential to inadvertently identify women who've had an abortion. The bill now says that doctors who perform abortions in the state must have hospital privileges in local hospitals.

This story includes reporting from Reuters, The Associated Press and msnbc.com's Sevil Omer.

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