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

Kill the baby. It's not wanted and at least that early stage has no awareness. So, it's irrelevant to worry if it's a child or a lump of cells. Kill it and save the adult mother and the child a miserable life. We kill far more aware life forms every day without a moments thought. Just because they are inconvenient.

Other arguments are based on ridiculous superstitious beliefs.

If all the hateful, cruel, cold hearted pro choice people feel so strongly then get a constitutional amendment passed. Problem is your just a small minority of soon to be extinct creatures.

Mary

This can't possibly be legal. And once the ACLU, or some other organization, mounts a legal challenge, the legislation will be overturned. The gov't cannot high-jack private businesses and use them as propaganda machines. Moreover, reproductive rights are still federally protected, and even with a replacement for Scalia (who was almost to the right of John Birch), Roe v. Wade is settled law. To those commentators who are anti-abortion, you can live out your ideals by not having one. Or even better, find someone who has chosen to give birth in spite of an unwanted pregnancy, and bankroll that little one. You write that life begins before birth, yet do nothing overt to support it once it vacates the birth canal. I realize this probably isn't as enjoyable as imposing your will on women. Yet your hypocrisy says all we need to know about you.

Anonymous

When men start birthing 8 pound babies, squeezing out of their little tiny pee hole, then and only then can they have any kind of opinion on abortion.

Michelle Iston

Oklahoma is a backward state. I feel sorry for the people that live there.

Earth of Sydney...

Funny how the Christian Right talk about the sanctity of life are also very quick to murder people for oil.

Anonymous

If this cannot be halted, I suggest businesses exercise their constitutional right to free speech with a disclaimer that they do not necessarily condone the message, and list some alternative and less biased sources for help for women.

Anonymous

I assume men's bathrooms will have lessons promoting abstinence, child support enforcement, and the benefits of only ejaculating into a gym sock.

Anonymous

Perhaps these bathrooms should also display signs with information about Planned Parenthood and other such organizations providing choice.

Brenda H White

when a fertilized human egg becomes a child is a religious, moral or ethical issue. There is no science that supports the view that a fertilized egg is a human being. It is the woman's religious, moral or ethical view of when this happens that should and must prevail.

Anonymous

To begin with, the timing of life filling a fetus is a Religious timing, not a government one. The first amendment also guarantees the right of Freedom of Religion and separates the State from any such group. The State should be concerned with population control, not religion. In fact, the act of an abortion, or at least the massive reticence regarding such, should be handled strictly in the religion setting, not the government. How much do unwanted pregnancies cost the state, is what the state should be concerned. How many are paid for by medicaid for those who cannot afford or do not have insurance. Unwanted parenting also causes challenges with upbringing and what that might bring about. Sth state should be concerned with the dollar cost and not the spiritual one. Get real!

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