Oklahoma plans to spend millions on anti-choice propaganda in public bathrooms
After essentially sweeping through all three branches of the federal government and dominating southern and midwestern states, conservative Republicans have been emboldened to keep on doing what they do best: terrorizing women. In a new effort that really begs the question of how it’s even humanly possible to hate women so much, Oklahoma could spend millions on anti-choice signs in bathrooms in public buildings across the state by January 2018. So much for Republicans caring about privacy in public bathrooms!
All of this is part of an initiative passed in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives back in May, pushing the Department of Health to work toward establishing an “abortion-free society” by producing educational materials to promote this agenda. All in all, installing the signs in businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, public schools, and other public buildings would cost roughly $2.3 million, Mic reports. On Tuesday, the state announced that the Board of Health is looking into the plan.
The signs will reportedly include a link to the Department of Health’s website, which, being an appendage of a deeply anti-choice state government, doesn’t exactly promise to be unbiased. They will read:
“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.”
There’s no shortage of irony in how, if the state truly wanted to prevent abortions, it could easily have invested that $2.3 million in expanding access to contraception and sex ed (instead of its abstinence-only education programs correlated with higher rates of teen pregnancy), or perhaps alleviating the medical and financial burden of pregnancy for low-income women.
When it comes to abortion, much fuss is made by conservative politicians of the sanctity of life and motherhood, but once the fetus actually crosses the threshold and becomes a living human, and once the pregnant woman becomes a mother, they tend to stop caring. On the other hand, opposition to paid leave, the social safety net, and access to healthcare that’s critically important to new mothers and their children is popular among abortion opponents.
As of 2010, 1 in 10 Oklahoma women rely on Medicaid, which covers 17 million non-elderly women who are predominantly poor, working mothers, the National Women’s Law Center notes. But following the Supreme Court’s ruling in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius offered states the opportunity to opt out of Medicaid, in Oklahoma alone there are 172,000 people who are eligible but aren’t receiving Medicaid coverage, according to the Urban Institute. The state’s Republicans have consistently opposed a program that poor, single mothers rely on, sharply contradicting the narrative these bathroom signs will portray.
In this sense, Oklahoma’s signs are not only a waste of money, but incredibly deceptive. Assisting poor mothers and their children isn’t the priority. On the other hand, attacking abortion through any means, no matter how deceptive, is. This should be obvious enough given how this latest effort is part of an overarching legislative initiative that literally identifies its goal as achieving an “abortion-free society,” as opposed to a society free of economic burden on poor working mothers.
Sure, these signs wouldn’t place the same legal burden on abortion rights as the bill to criminalize the act of providing abortion, passed by the Oklahoma state legislature back in May but promptly vetoed by Governor Mary Fallin. However, protecting the right to informed reproductive choice is just as important as protecting legal rights to abortion.
As Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in an email to Mic, “All women deserve the most accurate information and resources when it comes to making decisions about their reproductive health care, including carrying a pregnancy to term.”