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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Jeff S.

I'm not ashamed to make a comment using my name. This bill needs to be brought to a crushing halt. Roe v Wade is still valid in this country, so abortions are legal. I find it sad so many women don't know what to do with their own bodies, but an old, rich, white man does. Last I checked, men don't have vaginas, so I'm unclear why they have a say in the matter. I'm Pro-Choice, and the interesting thing is, NOT having an abortion is a valid option with Pro-Choice. The differences between Pro-Choice and Pro-Life are these, 1) No one tells you what to do with your body with Pro-Choice, and 2) People care about the child should it be born with Pro-Choice. If someone is Pro-Life, they could not care less about the child once it is born. More accurately, they are pro-birth. They feel like they must push their agenda on everyone else, and will attempt to do so even more now that this bill has passed. How sad...

Anonymous

How about we concentrate on STOPPING WARS (which kill a lot more human beings), and helping all people to have a decent life instead of concentrating on something that is a personal decision between a WOMAN and GOD. You cannot legislate morality and it's past time governments and religious people stopped trying.

Mateo

Government so small it fits in every women's restroom and vagina. Why not just put it in the men's room too while they're at it?

Anonymous

Because men are above reproach. Their bodily functions are acceptable even when they rape.

Anonymous

Was it not compelled speech when California required that crisis pregnancy centers, even those that are ministries of religious organizations, post signs in their entry areas with information about how to obtain birth control and abortion services? I didn't see the ACLU fighting that bill that compelled speech by private actors.

Anonymous

The issue with CPC's (Crisis Pregnancy Centers) is that their intended purpose generally does not work in the best interest of a possible mother. The intended goal of CPC's is to 'dissuade' a woman from terminating a pregnancy. Their methods of doing so have ranged from subversive (attempting to force a woman to form an attachment to a collection of cells she may not even want) to often times dispensing old and debunked research to information that is utterly false all in an effort push a woman towards continuing a pregnancy. Being and medical facility they cannot simply disseminate false information to the public in order to achieve their agenda. A pharmaceutical company is forced to list out every possible side effect for their drugs in order to give the public a chance to make intelligent choices with their health rather than being bamboozled by a snake oil salesman. In this situation CPC's are often those salesmen who are being reigned in from selling their false products.
Forcing medical facilities to provide accurate information or where to find accurate information (even if it goes against their religious views as their first priority is protecting the public health and not their opinions) is quite different than forcing every privately owned business regardless of their religious or political stances to display state run propaganda.

Anonymous1952

where will these people be when the money is needed to raise the baby? In addition to a woman's right to control her body, this law will place a right to control their body in the hands of the rich and the allies with coat hangers. Self involved righteous ding bats. smh

Anonymous

Women who do not like abortions should certainly refrain from having an abortion. Women who feel a need for an abortion, which happens to be a safe and legal procedure, should be able to avail themselves of an abortion safely. What more is there to discuss? A fetus is not a human being, it is a potential life. I don't see protestors out at fertility clinic where as many embryos are made as possible. If an implanted embryo does not "take" the embryos are replaced. If the implanted embryo develops and a baby is born, the embryos are discarded. No one calls this an abortion. Can someone please explain the difference to me?

Anonymous

Abortion is so so sad, it kills the most vulnerable of us and must create so much strive for the Mother. We need to stop murdering our children and give woman much more support to stop getting pregnant to begin with and help if they do. Allowing the killing of unborn babies should not be our legacy!

Anonymous

it actually doesn't create strife for the mother in most cases...study after study has come out that says women that have an abortion are at no greater risk for depression than those that do not. what does cause mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and sometimes PTSD is when women cannot access abortion care when they need it.

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