Oklahoma Tornado: Storm's Aftermath Gives Lawmakers a Chance to Come Together and Defund Planned Parenthood

As Oklahoma is still reeling from one of the most destructive tornadoes in its history, the Oklahoma state legislature has decided to take this time to focus on what really matters – going after Planned Parenthood. In a state with an already atrocious record on women’s health, this bill can only serve to harm Oklahoma families further. 

While the nation’s attention is on the victims of this horrible tragedy, the Oklahoma State Senate has passed a bill that will defund Planned Parenthood in the state. It’s unclear why they decided this was the appropriate time, unless perhaps some Oklahoma state senators consider the tornadoes to be God’s punishment for mammograms and parenting classes.

Even though Planned Parenthood does provide abortions, and in many cases nationwide is the only abortion provider women can access, Oklahoma’s public funding is already restricted from covering abortion services. The funding goes towards other vital aspects of women’s health, like cancer screenings, contraception, and annual exams. Furthermore, since 75% of Planned Parenthood’s patients are at the poverty level, often Planned Parenthood is their only source of any health care.

If it’s abortion services that the Oklahoma lawmakers are worried about, they can probably relax for a little while and focus on other things like disaster relief. They’ve already pretty much taken care of it. As of 2012, according to RemappingDebate.org, Oklahoma had the most restrictions on abortion in the country, amounting to a “near-total abortion ban, unenforceable per Roe.” Between a scarcity of abortion providers, mandatory waiting periods, and burdensome requirements on hospitals and abortion providers, it is already almost impossible for a woman in Oklahoma to obtain an abortion. Only a week ago, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill into law to make it more difficult for a minor to get an abortion without parental consent.

The long-term impacts of defunding Planned Parenthood could be disastrous in a state that Fox News ranked as the seventh worst state for women’s health in the country. According to the article, Oklahoma is the only state in the U.S. where women’s life expectancy declined between 1987 and 2007. In the aftermath of the tornadoes, more families will likely be thrust into poverty, and without access to Planned Parenthood, it will be even more difficult for them to access vital health care.

The Oklahoma House is voting on the bill today, but it is unlikely not to pass. State Representative Doug Cox (R), who plans on voting against the bill, says he doubts his fellow Republicans will follow suit. "I have people who tell me they feel the way I do, but are afraid to vote the way I do," he said. Since abortions are already impossible to access in Oklahoma, and the bill’s only practical effect will be to restrict women’s health care, this bill is clearly more about symbolism than substance. It’s especially reprehensible that at a time when Oklahomans need support and aid, the Oklahoma lawmakers are choosing to make a statement on the backs of poor families.

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Morgan McDaniel

Morgan is a feminist writer and activist. She speaks Arabic and has traveled and studied in Jordan and the West Bank.

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