Oklahoma Women Can’t Even Pee Without Being Confronted With Anti-Choice Messages

by Aoife Riach

In another blow to reproductive rights in the US, Oklahoma has passed a law that requires businesses such as restaurants, public schools and hospitals to display anti-choice signage in their restrooms.

It’s just one of the provisions of the Humanity of the Unborn Child Act that the Legislature passed in June “for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society.” The Legislature has provided $0 in funding for the signage, so the costs, an estimated $2.3 million, will fall to the businesses themselves. Several complaints from businesses have been received, and the Board of Health met on Tuesday to discuss potential regulations.

Under this law, the signs would read, “There are many public and private agencies willing and able to help you carry your child to term and assist you and your child after your child is born, whether you choose to keep your child or to place him or her for adoption. The State of Oklahoma strongly urges you to contact them if you are pregnant.”

Jim Hooper, president of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, wasn’t so much concerned about the content of the signs as the cost, telling the Associated Press that he’s not concerned about “the information they’re trying to get out to women about their babies and their pregnancy.” Babies? I think the word you’re looking for is “fetuses,” Jim.

Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, hit back at the new requirement, stating, “This is the government using its police power to shame and stigmatize women who seek abortion care, plain and simple.”

The signs encourage people with unplanned pregnancies to seek out agencies that will “help you carry your child to term,” but as we know, many so-called pro-life agencies or crisis pregnancy centers — especially the types that send representatives to loiter outside clinics to harass people — can be incredibly damaging. They lie, frighten, and promise the world to someone faced with an unplanned pregnancy, to terrify them into not having an abortion, but immediately abandon them after the birth. The bill was pushed for by anti-choice group Oklahomans for Life, a zealous proponent of these fake clinics, and was signed into law by anti-choice Republican Gov. Mary Fallin.

As well as being intrusive and misleading, the signs also ignore one basic, fundamental fact: adoption is an alternative to parenthood, not pregnancy. While some pregnant people may wish to continue to term, not everyone is physically, psychologically or emotionally capable of doing so. Pregnancy is a wonderful thing if it’s wanted, but it’s also exhausting, transformative, and dangerous, with maternal mortality rates in the US actually increasing in the last few years. It’s not something to be taken lightly.

Oklahoman Democrats did try to include sex ed and family planning services to the bill, but that sounded too much like common sense to Republicans, who shot it down. Rather than take steps that have been proven to lower abortion rates, such as making birth control more affordable, funding maternity leave and childcare for working parents, and providing comprehensive sex ed in schools, why not, at a huge cost to local businesses, just stick a bunch of judgey, interfering messages on the backs of restroom cubicle doors? Good job, Oklahoma!

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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