Oklahoma Just Passed a Law Requiring Private Businesses to Turn Their Bathrooms Into Billboards for Anti-Abortion Propaganda

The Oklahoma Legislature has outdone itself this time. In the latest of their absurd and callous efforts to shame and stigmatize women, Oklahoma legislators from both parties have passed into law a requirement that commands thousands of private businesses to turn their bathroom walls into billboards for anti-abortion propaganda.

As part of a misguided effort to reduce the number of abortions in Oklahoma, Rep. Ann Coody and Sen. AJ Griffin introduced HB 2797 — the “Humanity of the Unborn Child Act.” Among other troubling provisions, the new law requires public schools, hospitals, restaurants, and nursing homes to post signs in their restrooms directing women to services aimed at discouraging abortion.

It’s difficult to see what possible purpose this law could serve other than to shame and dissuade women from accessing their constitutionally protected right to a safe and legal medical procedure. The same legislation also requires the Oklahoma Department of Health to develop and distribute “educational” materials that “clearly and consistently teach that abortion kills a living human being.”

Shaming women and limiting their right to access medically necessary health care is certainly nothing new for the state of Oklahoma. From 20-week bans to outrageous TRAP laws and from annual attempts to grant full rights to a fetus to threatening doctors who perform abortions with felonies, the Oklahoma Legislature is as persistent as they are imprudent.

What’s new this time around is their attempt to conscript private businesses in their war on Oklahoma’s women. The requirement that many businesses, including restaurants, post signs that advance a backwards and misogynist agenda amounts to forced political speech, which is impermissible under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Requiring business owners to communicate a biased statement to their patrons falls well outside the state’s interest to regulate health and safety in these businesses. The ACLU of Oklahoma is considering a range of legal options to halt this government command to display its propaganda on bathroom walls.

Upon receiving the news that her unfunded mandate would cost businesses and chronically impoverished schools an estimated $2.3 million, Sen. Griffin indicated a willingness to revise the legislation to reduce the burden on businesses. While we certainly welcome any opportunity to reconsider the merits of this ludicrous new law, it is disheartening that the majority of Oklahoma’s legislators are unwilling to stand up for women unless doing so happens to align with monied business interests.

In the apparent absence of any desire to approach reproductive health care sensibly and with the rights of women in mind, we will continue to fight threats to Oklahoma’s women however they appear. 

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Anonymous

How about we start a fund to provide frames for these notices that say the text is required to be there by law and that safe abortion is available from Planned Parenthood or whatever local providers / 800 numbers are appropriate?

Elizabeth

Wouldn't it be great if Oklahoma invested time and energy in offering free birth control, as Colorado has, instead of punishing those who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy? In a 5-year period, Colorado saw Unintended pregnancies down 40%, Abortions down 42% and Millions in public health costs saved. I encourage those who want to save lives to look into how they can support free birth control. Also, I just saw many of the discouraging comments on this page and upped my donation to support your work. Thank you, ACLU, for remaining vigilant and protecting our constitutional rights.

Anonymous

Well said!

Jay

Thanks to the ACLU for fighting this stupid law. Whatever your views on abortion, theres no way such a law is constitutional as it amounts to forced political speech.

Anonymous

As a rape survivor and a woman who chose to have an abortion, this wasteful use of our tax dollars is disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. Why are our elected officials not investing our tax money into improving our horrendous public education system for our children? Why are they doing absolutely nothing for the almost one in four children in this state who live at or below the poverty line? Why are they instead focusing on propaganda that shames and guilts women for making a choice to end a pregnancy? Oklahoma clearly cannot take care of the children already born in this state nor the women who must raise them. Almost one third of all households living at or below the poverty line are single mothers. What assistance and help are we giving them? No, this state has its priorities in the wrong places. My choice to have an abortion was made out of great pain, but had I not chosen that path, I would not have my darling son today. I would not have the job that I do in the Army (and those terrorists I targeted for two years in Afghanistan would not have been found). I would not be the wife, mother, and soldier that I am today. Let us stop shaming women, let us stop being a joke of a state, and start caring for the women and children of Oklahoma that need our attention now.

Richard

I'm disappointed that this bill excluded the men's rooms. Why did the government representaives not also include a government requirement for private companies to post signs to be posted above urinals in with a government-directive that men should only have sex when they want to create a baby?

Anonymous

I don't think they CAN be "shamed" because I don't think they have any conscience, and I'm a woman. One who unfortunately had one talking at me, by which I mean she couldn't even address me personally. She had to talk in that gd 3rd person they all lapse into for EVERYthing. I don't even think they're human if they can't talk using words like 'you,' and opting for 'she' when they're supposed to be talking directly TO me. The 3rd person, their favorite way of talking about everything. It's inhumane IMO. They all think a child of rape has no right to even live at all, as if nobody would ever choose to keep it and if anyone did THEY'D seek to shame THAT person by acting like there's never been argument with a child of rape, you should just be hell-bent on destroying any possibility of a life.
They don't want anyone trying to shame THEM but have zero difficulty doing it themselves. Then wonder why you can't stand some of them.

Anonymous

FYI -- no one can understand your comment.

Anonymous

There's nothing confusing about the idea of a woman who has no shame.
And a child of rape isn't an abomination, the rapist is but everyone always blames the child and thinks the child has no right to exist. I ought to know since I HAVE a child of rape, and nobody tried to claim paternal rights for her. I've never heard of a rapist, especially one who was found not guilty on a bs technicality, coming back and insisting they get paternal rights.

Anonymous

A women's supposed "right" to take the life of her (and someone else's) unborn baby may be legal but that doesn't make it right and definitely a baby dies in every successful abortion.

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