Here’s What Oklahoma’s Anti-Choice Goals Are Costing The Sooner State

House Bill 2797, which mandates that Oklahoma’s Department of Health and Department of Education work together toward the ominous purpose of achieving an “abortion-free society” was signed into law last week by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, who is — you guessed it — a Republican. The law, effective Nov. 1, aims to achieve this sweeping goal through public service announcements and high school-level “education programs regarding the humanity of the unborn child,” aka the usual barrage of anti-choice/anti-science propaganda, only this time catered directly to high school students. Aside from the whole spread of lies and anti-abortion stigma, Oklahoma’s latest anti-choice goals are concerning because of their financial costs.

The new law, which, by the way, also bans program and state employees from referring “any student to a medical facility or any provider for the performance of an abortion” (because freedom of speech apparently is no longer a thing), specifically creates the Public Education on the Humanity of the Unborn Child Fund. Despite the state’s $1.3 billion budget deficit which has resulted in its education budget being cut by $58 million, Oklahoma’s Education Department estimates that the Public Education on the Humanity of the Unborn Child Fund will need about $160,000 just to develop curriculum and material and $10,000 per high school across the state for a grand total of about $4.78 million, according to Slate.

Further, Democratic State Representative Emily Virgin also makes the very good point that aside from the financial burden of this law, “adding yet another mandate on [teachers] … just takes away instructional time from other areas.”

And, let’s not forget that discouraging the use of family planning services and banning teachers from referring students to places they can get safe medical abortions would have dire financial consequences of its own. According to  2015 report, additional unplanned births could dramatically increase government spending, mostly toward Medicaid.

States with abstinence-only sex education by and large have the highest rates of teen pregnancy, and I can only wonder what these numbers would look like in a state where youths are actively discouraged from obtaining abortion. Teen mothers are more likely to live in poverty, and costs for public health care, foster care, welfare, and other related expenses amount to nearly $9.4 billion, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

HB2797 might be disappointing and frankly disturbing as hell, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially from a state that not too long ago made performing abortions a felony. The anti-choice movement has long been at odds with things like science and freedom of speech in its spread of the “life begins at conception” myth (discredited by pretty much the whole medical community and the Constitution), its failure to distinguish between zygotes, embryos, and fetuses, and ultimately, its portrayal of abortion as taboo and dangerous when this couldn’t be farther from the truth. On top of all that, efforts to suppress research about the effects of anti-choice regulations make it harder to convince anti-choice zealots they’re wrong.

abortion, pro-choice
CREDIT: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

The spread of misleading information about abortion is hardly a new phenomenon: just look at cringe-worthy, inaccurate portrayals of the commonplace and safe procedure in mainstream media and state-mandated counseling sessions. However, there’s no denying the special danger in these lies being fed directly to young people in schools.

Here’s a comforting reminder: decent parents have the option of opting their children out of these state-mandated propaganda sessions, and further, the state’s dire financial situation could prevent the law from being implemented altogether, according to Slate.

We’ve always known anti-choice conservatives were more “pro-force women to give birth” than “pro-life,” consistently standing against funding for welfare programs for poor families, and their commitment to promoting an agenda rooted in lies at the expense of actual, living children just trying to go to school to learn powerfully reinforces this reputation.