Oklahoma’s first new abortion clinic since 1974 opens after state legislature tries to criminalize abortion

Over the past year, all news related to abortion in the state of Oklahoma has been overwhelmingly negative. Earlier this year, its legislature passed a law that could charge abortion providers with felonies, and its governor proposed teaching anti-choice propaganda in public schools. But just last week, offering women reassurance and access to critical health service, Oklahoma opened its first abortion clinic in more than 40 years.

The South Wind Women’s Center in Oklahoma City, established by the Trust Women foundation, provides not only abortions, but ob-gyn care, family planning services, emergency contraception, and adoption services, because contrary to what the anti-choice movement would have you believe, the pro-choice movement and adoption aren’t adversaries.

South Wind Women’s Center will now serve OKC’s 600,000 residents, but before it opened last week, the city was recognized as the largest metropolitan area in the nation without an abortion provider, according to the Trust Women foundation. Oklahoma had only two other abortion clinics, based all the way in Tulsa and Norman. The state’s rate of abortions has dropped by a staggering 34 percent since 2002, which could be due to any number of reasons, including wider use of contraception, but perhaps also due to limited regional access to the procedure.

Julie Burkhart, the founder and CEO of Trust Women, estimates South Wind Women’s Center could provide roughly 1,500 abortions in its first year alone, she told the Associated Press. Obviously, no woman ever really wants an abortion, but that 1,500 women will have access to their right to choose over the course of this year because of the new clinic is news worth celebrating.

The Oklahoma legislature in May passed a bill that would essentially criminalize abortion by incriminating doctors who performed the service. Surprisingly enough, Republican Governor and avid anti-choice activist Mary Fallin vetoed the bill for its vagueness and obvious inability to stand against constitutional challenges, but the bill’s ability to pass the state’s legislature sent a frankly terrifying message to abortion providers and women across the state who value their bodily autonomy. To see a new abortion clinic open in the state for the first time since 1974 after this scare is no small deal — the expansion of who has access to their human rights rarely is, after all.

South Wind Women’s Center opens at a time of steadily disappearing abortion clinics. In the state of Texas alone, since 2012, 23 clinics that provided abortion services have closed as of June 2015. Across the nation, 58 have closed since 2011, largely due to medically unnecessary and incredibly difficult, expensive requirements clinics are burdened with to stay in operation, despite the safe, low-risk nature of the procedure.

These requirements were identified as unconstitutional earlier this year in the landmark case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, and the opening of this clinic certainly gives cause for optimism.