Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

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)

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"

Andrea Germanos

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.

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.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Not a Blacklist' But a 'Whitewash': EU Slammed for Letting Tax Havens Off the Hook

"How can anyone give this list any credibility?" asked Oxfam's tax expert after the European Union removed infamous safe harbor Bermuda from a roster that also exempts E.U. members.

Brett Wilkins ·

'Who Voted for This?': Campaigners Disrupt Truss Speech Over Fracking Ban 'U-Turn'

"Nobody voted for fracking, nobody voted to cut benefits, nobody voted to trash nature, nobody voted to scrap workers' rights," said one Greenpeace organizer.

Julia Conley ·

'Unreal': Amazon Suspends 50 Employees Who Refused to Work After Fire Broke Out

An Amazon Labor Union lawyer called the punishment of Staten Island employees "a violation of workers' rights to join in a collective action about the terms and conditions of their employment."

Kenny Stancil ·

Khanna Tells Biden to Cut Off Weapons to Saudis as OPEC Agrees to Slash Oil Supply

"President Biden should make it clear that we will stop supplying the Saudis with weapons and air parts if they fleece the American people and strengthen Putin by making drastic production cuts."

Jake Johnson ·

'Absolutely Shameful': Michigan Judge Drops Flint Water Crisis Charges Against 7 Officials

"This means there are currently no criminal charges over 8 years later," lamented one journalist.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo