Politics

Oklahoma bill requiring pro-life signs in public restrooms to be changed

In an attempt to create an abortion-free society, Oklahoma’s State Board of Health met on December 13 to discuss requiring public restrooms to carry pro-life signs. The requirement, part of the “Humanity of the Unborn Child Act” which passed in June, has now been reconstructed by the bill’s sponsor due to concerns that arose.

Business owners with restrooms regulated by the Oklahoma Health Department would have been required to post signs that informed pregnant women of the programs that are available to help mothers and children. The restrooms included were those in hospitals, restaurants, nursing homes, and public schools. The signs were scheduled to be placed by January 2018, and would 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.

However, despite sponsoring the bill, after it’s approval, Senator A.J. Griffin said she wanted to revise the requirements in order to better target locations for the signs and reach the women who need help and are unsure where to turn.

“I do see how it is going to need to be tempered a tad,” Griffin told the Associated Press. “We need to make sure we have something that’s reasonable and still effective.”

One of the concerns, according to the Associated Press, is that the cost to businesses and organizations would have totaled about $2.3 million for the signs because no government money was approved for the project. However, Tony Lauinger, executive director for Oklahomans for Life, told the Associated Press that the intention was never for the businesses to cover the cost, but for the Health Department to pay with legislature-approved funding. A number of businesses have vocalized complaints about the cost of the signs.

Another concern was that the signs would not reach the desired audience in all of the proposed restrooms, such as those placed in nursing homes.

“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,” explained Jim Hooper, president of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association. “It’s just another mandate on small businesses. It’s not just restaurants. It includes hospitals, nursing homes. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Griffin has since proposed changes to the bill which would include requiring that the signs be placed only in the bathrooms of abortion clinics and providers. In addition, Griffin wants the State Department of Health to create a social media campaign on how women can avoid abortions. Her new proposal will be considered by the legislature, which convenes February 6, 2017. Until then, no signs will be placed, and no work will be carried out on the regulations.

“It was never intended to be a burden on businesses or health providers,” Griffin said in a statement. “Changing to a social media campaign will actually broaden the reach and make linking pregnant women to services even more visible.”

The hope for the signs and social media campaign is that women facing unplanned or crisis pregnancies will realize that they are not alone. The signs will provide them with vital information they may not have had access to and would not likely be given to them at an abortion clinic.

Editor’s Note: If you are pregnant and looking for resources, please see this article. While it is focused on women who are being pressured into abortion, it is full of resources and information for any pregnant woman, including a list of organizations who may be able to help you or locate a pregnancy center in your area.

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