As if there wasn’t enough controversy surrounding abortion these days (and taking away women’s basic rights to have ownership over their bodies), Oklahoma has plans to force hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, and public schools to post pro-life signs inside restrooms directing pregnant women where to receive services (like finding an adoption agency) as part of an effort to reduce abortions in the state. Um, what?
The provision for the signs was part of a law that the legislature passed earlier this year requiring the state to develop informational material “for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society.” There has been, of course, much criticism from groups representing hospitals and restaurants, though not necessarily because of the signs themselves, but because the cost is too expensive. Why? Because the legislature didn’t approve any money for them. And you know, as my dad likes to say, money doesn’t grow on trees. Jim Hooper, president of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, stated in Associated Press:
“We don’t have any concern about the information they’re trying to get out to women about their babies and their pregnancy. This is just the wrong way to do it. It’s just another mandate on small businesses. It’s not just restaurants. It includes hospitals, nursing homes. It just doesn’t make sense.”
So, how did this all happen? Not surprisingly, the anti-abortion group Oklahomans for Life requested the bill. Senator A.J. Griffin, who sponsored the bill, explained how she may revise the document in the upcoming legislative session to exclude some facilities:
“I do see how it is going to need to be tempered a tad. We need to make sure we have something that’s reasonable and still effective.”
Under the law, the signs themselves would state:
“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.”
Which leaves me with some questions. First of all, will there be signs like these in the men’s bathroom geared toward future dads who helped their female partners get pregnant? It’s not as if women spontaneously become pregnant on their own–so why should carrying a baby to term only be a woman’s problem?
Of course, it also implies that choosing abortion is wrong–the unethical choice–which is absolutely absurd. The language itself is full of subtle passive aggression, and for someone who is in a vulnerable place–whether they are a mom, teen, lawyer, or bartender–that language is dangerous. It could put undue stress, pressure, and guilt on someone’s decision process. That is not OK. Plus, just on a business level, why should neutral public places take sides?
According to the Oklahoma Hospital Association, it’s projected it would cost at least $225,000 for signage at the state’s 140 licensed hospitals. That means the financial consequence on other licensed industries comes to about $2.1 million. That’s a lot of money. Tony Lauinger, the executive director of Oklahomans for Life, did clarify that the group’s intent is for the Health Department to produce the signage, but only if the legislature appropriated funds to do so.
Regardless of who pays for it, as someone who can actually become pregnant–and as someone who has had an abortion–I find this completely inappropriate. I can’t even imagine how emotionally traumatizing it could be for someone who is in a position where they can’t keep the child to see these signs (and potentially triggering for someone who underwent an abortion). Besides, these kinds of signs can, and will, impact what young children think. They will grow up thinking abortion is wrong–without truly understanding it. This is already a problem now, we don’t need to make it worse.