Last week, Oklahoma informed Planned Parenthood that it will be terminating its WIC contracts with the organization in the state. (Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, is a federal grant program which provides food vouchers to low income women who are pregnant, have just given birth, or have children under five.) Planned Parenthood will lose more than $400,000 from programming that provided “food and nutritional counseling to low-income mothers.” No Planned Parenthood clinics in Oklahoma provide abortions. Opponents of this decision believe it was politically motivated, though Oklahoma is making a business argument.
This is just the most recent development: Oklahoma has gone farther, weirder, and Sooner than pretty much any other state.
Weird: Earlier this year, Republican Senator Ralph Shortey introduced a bill banning aborted fetuses in food because he read an article online discussing the use of embryonic stem cells for research into artificial sweeteners. It has nothing “to do with fetuses being chopped up and put in our burritos,” said Shortey in defending the measure.
Far: In February, the Oklahoma Senate approved a Personhood measure to grant individual liberties to embryos from the moment of conception. The bill died before it reached the House floor, but Personhood wasn’t done yet. In April, the Oklahoma Supreme Court vetoed the inclusion of a Personhood ballot measure “ruling it ‘clearly unconstitutional’ because it would block a woman's legal right to have an abortion.”
In 2011, Republican Governor Mary Fallin signed a fetal pain bill into law.
Soon: In 2010, the Oklahoma legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto to pass two pieces of abortion-related legislation, including one that would require women to view, listen to, and hearing a detailed description of an ultrasound (with a probe, no less) with no exceptions for rape or incest victims. The other prevents a doctor from being sued if he does not tell a woman about birth defects of the baby she is carrying.
The attorney general initially agreed to place a temporary stay on the ultrasound law. It was ruled unconstitutional this past March by a District Judge: “the statute is invalid under the state’s constitution, which prohibits laws targeted only to certain populations.” Oklahoma’s current Attorney General plans to appeal this ruling, signaling no easy end to this fight.
In 2009, Oklahoma passed a law requiring women to fill out a lengthy questionnaire with information such as marital status, number of children, race, age, relationship with the father, education level, number of previous abortions and pregnancies, the reason for the abortion, and where it was performed. It then posts the statistics from these surveys on a public website. About the only thing the questionnaire doesn’t ask women is their names. The law also makes it illegal to seek an abortion based on gender.
Oklahoma also requires parental consent and notification, state-directed counseling and a 24-hour waiting period, the use of telemedicine for RU-486, and limits both public funding and private insurance coverage. I would not be surprised to see the resuscitation of Personhood or ultrasounds in Oklahoma’s next legislative session.
Editor's Note: With 17 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on: Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas,Missouri,Kentucky, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Mississippi, Michigan, Indiana, Alabama,
Ohio, Florida, Georgia, D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts & Rhode Island, Maine & New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!