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

Young girls need contraceptives. These people want more babies with no services to take care of women who are to young and poor to take care of these babies. These people who are pro-baby are not pro-life at all! Hypocrits! A womens choice is none of your business because you will be the first to turn your back on her when she needs help!

Anonymous

NO. This is not MEDICINE. We do not have billboards in bathrooms telling obese people to get bariatric surgery, nor do we have billboards akin to "Got Narcissist Personality Disorder? Find a therapist now." For no other diagnosis do we shame, stalk and disparage patients. This is so obviously political/religious it makes my skin crawl.

Anonymous

Why ought not women be dissuaded from abortion? Whatever happened to the supported pro-choice statement that abortion ought to be safe and rare?
You talk about "shame" while you ignore the voices of women who were coerced into having an abortion. You ignore women's sufferings which underlie many of the reasons women feel they have no choice but to have an abortion. You protect an industry who counsels not for "choice" but actually encourages abortion. You refuse to listen to the thousands of women who have indeed been traumatized by abortion. Despite the unsafe conditions of poorly regulated abortion clinics which have caused harm and even death, your organization makes no demands for better safeguards and dares to protect this situation at great cost to women. You ignore the contradiction we face as health care providers between a "minor's right to privacy" vs mandated reporting of sexual abuse. Tell me how a fifteen year old escorted to her abortionist by an adult male father justifies us keeping our mouths shut, and not report this as a violation? You dare speak of "shame"? Shame on you ACLU your bias is showing.

Anonymous

How's about we stop insulting each other and try to come up with solutions to the abortion issue, which this law tries to address poorly.

Yes this legislation is forcing private businesses to advertise a political message. But whether you are pro life or pro choice educating the public about abortion is ideal. It'll lead to more awareness about contraceptives. Do I think we should be shaming women? Of course not, I would much rather see a law passed telling the masses how to have safe sex. And instead of it being in private business, just government offices to see how effective it is, and then slowly ask businesses if they would like to participate on a volunteer basis.

Let's come up with solutions and not just argue. The first step for now however, is to oppose this legislation.

Courtenay

Thought I would speak my mind without going anonymous. Simply witnessing the need (or rather the deep fears) that propel individuals to speak thru curtains is a fundamental issue in and of itself and speaks to a fundamental core reality that EYE feel is overlooked - an issue concerning freedom UNDER law. and the fact that this was a constitutional framework built from the fruits of democracy and COMMON will of the people. Law is not POWER...it is suppose to be used as a measure of Authority. And the more people don't speak up and get involved (ask questions if you don't have an opinion to form one!) then the more out of hand this will become and it's terrifying. I don't care what side you favor.

Anonymous

why don't you just cut off all mens genitals so this wont be a problem in your state

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