Unstated Intent

Image of state Capitol building and church

Despite what some of its supporters claim, Oklahoma’s latest disingenuous anti-abortion law is about doing away with the procedure, not about ensuring the safety of women.

The anti-abortion ideologues here have obviously believed through the years that it’s okay to use deception and rhetorical subterfuge in their legislative strategy because of the supposed religious sanctity of their cause, but one has to question the moral validity of a movement that dare not speak its name.

Gov. Mary Fallin recently signed into law Senate Bill 1848, which basically requires that abortion-clinic physicians must have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles of their facility. The bill actually states that one of the reasons for the new requirement is if “hospitalization of . . . a child born alive is necessary.”

State Rep. Randy Grau, an Edmond Republican and one of the sponsors of the bill, claims the bill is about the safety of women who have abortions, according to a media report. Let’s be clear that those who voted for the bill probably could care less about anyone seeking an abortion in the first place. This is about shutting down abortion clinics.

Even if we were to grant Grau a position of sincerity, here’s the simple logic that undercuts his logic: If an emergency situation arose during an abortion, an event that is extremely rare, the patient would be admitted to the closest hospital anyway by one of the hospital’s physicians.

The Oklahoma Medical Association opposed the bill, but on a limited basis, arguing “. . . we oppose legislation or regulations that would implement a standard of care or override a physician’s medical judgment.” That’s fine, but what about the rights of women who choose to have a legal and safe abortion? Shutting down abortion clinics directly affects the health of women here.

Tamya Cox, an attorney with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said two abortion facilities, one each in Oklahoma City and Norman, could be forced to close under the new requirements, according to an article in the Tulsa World. Another abortion facility in Tulsa is in compliance with the new bill, she said.

Cox said it can be difficult for doctors who perform abortions to get hospital admitting privileges because of the potential for negative publicity. Some hospitals also have religious affiliations that might compel them to refuse admitting privileges to physicians who regularly perform abortions.

The bill is part of the latest legislative strategy by the anti-abortion movement, which has already passed similar bills in four states, including Texas.

All these bills primarily impact low-income women who might not be able to afford to travel when seeking an abortion. This could lead to non-medically supervised abortions, which would, indeed, threaten women’s health and safety. Consequently, the bill could very well result in just the opposite of its stated intent.

Let’s hope the bill is challenged on constitutional grounds and is quickly discarded by the courts as another legislative error.

It’s easy for people to check out of the abortion debate because it’s so endless, but it really does impact all women. If religious fundamentalists are allowed to deny women basic rights to their own bodies through idealizing and sanctifying reproductive sexuality, then what else is next? Will they stop at abortion, at birth control? What other oppressive social controls will they deploy to prohibit women from making decisions about their own health, their own bodies?