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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Sonya Springer

Where can I find a list of who voted for this?

Anonymous

A

ultramanjones

Possibly the best, most succinct comment ever. Yes, the Scarlet Letter. How many will understand? Even after my spoiler reply?

Jennifer Barnett

Thank you so much for fighting against this law. No matter how one feels about this issue, this law is absurd and costly.

Anonymous

Ryan, Please realize hope completely hypocritical and ridiculous this article is from the perspective of a logical person who understands human life begins before birth (because science tell us so). While you are "fighting" to defend the rights of women, you are trampling on the rights of the most helpless and fragile human beings. I see that the ACLU is very selective when it comes to fighting for human rights. As a reminder, YOU once were a baby in your mothers womb, so apparently you don't think that your right to life started until birth. You should be very glad your mother didn't deem you as nothing more than an inconvenience, as you seem to view unborn children. Look inside your soul man- you know that abortion and the abortion industry is morally depraved. You don't have to be religious to see that. Finally many people in states such as OK and OH are admitting there is something very disturbing about abortion, so they are doing something about it.

Douglas

Please, you are so sanctimonious. Abortion is LEGAL, whether you like it or not. Forcing me, my business or anyone else's business to post language MANDATED by government in direct opposition to a legal procedure will NEVER fly.

This is religion and government overstepping their bounds.

How about we put pictures of living breathing human beings blown apart by guns in every private establishment in Oklahoma as a "reminder" about gun safety?

Anonymous

Dear anonymous. You have every right to believe whatever you choose about when you think life begins and the "depravity" of abortion. What you , and the state legislature do not have the right to do is force your views upon another person. Abortion is still a legal medical procedure. One that is offered for many life saving and affirming reasons. Unless you are living in the body that is having the procedure , it is none of your business. Period. Furthermore for a state to force any private business or citizen to display political propaganda for the purpose of shaming, bullying, scaring or misinforming - or for ANY reason is AGAINST THE LAW and in strict violation of the Constitution of the United States. and before you respond, please refrain from making any statements in regards to my personal life and my familial relationships with my mother. You don't know her. You don't know me and it is my hope that you will have the courtesy to keep your beliefs to yourself. Thank you.

Eliza

I hope that your stance also translates into your personal willingness to help support and fight for mothers who choose (or, may be forced) to have babies under dire circumstances, whose children may face abject poverty, stigma, limited resources, poor education and instability (and perhaps much worse), and who are just as "helpless and fragile" as they were in utero. Does your fight for vulnerable human beings inside the womb extend once they are born?

Anonymous

Ryan, the right way to prevent abortion is to require every man and woman before sex to sign an agreement that both will for the entire life of the child support it if a pregnancy results. Further, they must agree never in their lifetimes to have sex except for the purpose of creating a child. In this way men and women have the same stake in the sex act. Otherwise, women who are forced to continue pregnancy are enslaved. This is morally abhorent. Because Freedom.

Anonymous

Your logic is backwards and demented. I'm sure you feel so morally superior by telling a woman what to do with her body and how to plan her own family. Good for you! You are for forced birth... just admit it already. It's disgusting and YOU are the one that should feel ashamed of yourself.

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