OKLAHOMA CITY — Within a year, restrooms in Oklahoma’s motels, medical facilities, and restaurants may contain signs encouraging pregnant women to carry their babies to term.
On Tuesday (Dec. 13), by an 8-1 vote, the Oklahoma State Department of Health approved regulations requiring all department-licensed facilities to place specially worded signs in their public restrooms.
The new rules would even apply to Oklahoma’s abortion centers.
The regulations, set to take effect Jan. 1, 2018, are part of requirements outlined in Oklahoma’s Humanity of the Unborn Child Act.
Both the House and Senate passed the law by overwhelming margins, and Gov. Mary Fallin signed it into law June 6.
The act’s stated goal of moving Oklahoma toward an “abortion-free society” emerges in the signs’ wording:
“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.”
The signs must also display the web address of a health department information portal and a statement explaining the signs’ origin: “This sign is created, produced, and displayed in compliance with the Humanity of the Unborn Child Act.”
State Sen. A.J. Griffin, one of the bill’s sponsors, confirmed abortion centers are not exempt.
“They would be included because they are licensed” by the health department, Griffin told me. She also said requiring the signs in the state’s public schools, colleges and universities is a “definite possibility.”
Oklahoma’s sign requirement serves as a direct contrast to pro-abortion efforts to force pro-life crisis pregnancy centers to hand out abortion center contact information, although Griffin said her state hasn’t faced such a threat from pro-abortion legislators.
But other jurisdictions have. Although federal judges eventually ruled against such ordinances passed in Austin, Texas, Baltimore and Montgomery County, Md., the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October upheld a California law requiring pregnancy resource centers to provide clients a written statement with contact information for state-funded contraception and abortions. A similar law is set to go into effect in Illinois next month.
Although it has initial approval, Oklahoma’s regulation still must go through a legislative approval process.
“None of this is final, but the goal is to link women to as many services as possible without causing an undue burden on businesses,” Griffin noted. The services would not include abortion centers because state law forbids the health department from referring women for abortion, she added.
The regulations require the state-licensed facilities and businesses to produce and display the signs at their own expense in every restroom — men’s and women’s — on their premises. One projection puts the cost near $2.3 million for compliance across the state, including $225,000 for Oklahoma’s 140 state hospitals. But Griffin dismissed such estimates.
“It’s bureaucratic nonsense,” she said. “All businesses have to do is print a reasonably legible poster” with the required wording. She did say she’d work in the upcoming legislative session to tweak the regulations to exclude specific facilities, such as nursing homes.
Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the National Abortion Federation did not respond to requests for comment.
On Tuesday, pro-life efforts in Oklahoma also took a step backward. The state’s Supreme Court blocked a 2014 law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion center. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar Texas law.
According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, from 1991 to 2011, Oklahoma’s abortion rate was about half the national rate.
— by Bob Brown