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Oklahoma: Where Your Trip to a Public Restroom Will Include State-Ordered Anti-Choice Literature

Requirement denounced as "a politically motivated attack on Oklahoma's women"

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said that the forced bathroom signs were an "absurd and callous" attempt "to shame and stigmatize women." (Photo: coltera/flickr/cc)

As reproductive rights advocates brace for likely future attacks on during Donald Trump's administration, the war on women continued in Oklahoma on Tuesday with the approval of regulations requiring the posting of anti-abortion signs in public bathrooms.

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said that the "requirement that commands thousands of private businesses to turn their bathroom walls into billboards for a government anti-abortion statement" was state legislators' latest "absurd and callous" attempt "to shame and stigmatize women."

Oklahoma legislators passed in May and Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed into law in June the so-called Humanity of the Unborn Child Act (pdf), which states specifically that it is "for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society." It requires the state department of health to develop signage that reads:

There are many public and private agencies willing and able to help you carry your child to term and assist you and your child after your child is born, whether you choose to keep your child or to place him or her for adoption. The State of Oklahoma strongly urges you to contact them if you are pregnant.

The signs must be displayed at hospitals, schools, restaurants, and nursing homes by January 1, 2018.

On Tuesday, the state board of health approved the rules for putting up the signs.

Some of the complaints about the signage have been about the costs of putting them up—an estimated $2.3 million—which will be shouldered by the businesses and organizations because "the Legislature didn't approve any money for them," as the Associated Press writes.


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Oklahoma Hospital Authority president Craig Jones, for example, said that "the practicality of it was troubling," noting that healthcare providers are already financially-strapped.

Beyond costs, women's healthcare advocates decried the signs as a brazen attack on women that isn't effective at curbing the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Tamya Cox, staff attorney and lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, said to Tulsa ABC affiliate KTUL: "It's very arbitrary, it's very counter-productive because there's no substance of evidence that these signs will help reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies."

"Medically accurate, comprehensive sex education," would, Cox said. "So if the state is really about preventing those numbers then we would true and try means that we know work."

Another idea, as New York magazine writes: "If Oklahoma really wants a society with fewer abortions, perhaps they should call up their neighbors in Colorado, where free, long-acting birth control lowered the teen pregnancy rate by 40 percent and the abortion rate by 42 percent."

Added ACLU's Kiesel: "In addition to being a politically motivated attack 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."

He said his organization "is considering a range of legal options" to stop restroom signs.

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