New anti-abortion bill violates women’s rights

Bria Washburn, Staff Writer


On Tuesday, April 5, Oklahoma legislators, seemingly following in Texas’s footsteps, passed a new anti-abortion bill through their house of representatives by a 70-14 vote. The bill stated that receiving abortions would now be considered a felony and anyone convicted of performing an abortion would be subject to a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and/or up-to $100,000 in fines.

It is expected to pass through the Senate and the Governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Sitt, did not hesitate to sign it as he “promised Oklahomans I would sign every piece of pro-life legislation that came across my desk,” in an interview during a bill signing. If all goes according to their plans, the bill will take effect on August 26th of this year.

Upon hearing this, women and all supporters of the pro-choice movement were both devastated and horrified. This new bill, in combination with the Texas bill that declared abortion illegal after detection of a fetal heartbeat a few months prior, has raised much uncertainty about the future of women’s reproductive rights.

The controversy over abortion has been a hot topic for debate and politics for decades now, with the pro-choice movement first emerging in the 1960s. This movement lead to the establishment of the NARAL, or the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (now referred to as the National Abortion Rights Action League), alongside other powerful organizations that fought for women’s right to an abortion and more importantly, the right to choose how to best take care of their bodies.

In 1973, the Supreme Court made one of its most monumental rulings to date: the ruling of Roe v. Wade. The court ruled that a Texas law declaring all abortions illegal except in the case when the mother’s life is in danger was unconstitutional. This sounds a bit familiar, does it not?

The battle between the pro-choice and pro-life movements continued long past the legalization of abortion. And although women would still face many hardships should they decide to get an abortion, such as shame, harassment, and even physical assault, it seemed as if the hardest part of this fight was over.

Now, for the first time in several decades, the Supreme Court has a more ideologically conservative majority, with only three liberal judges versus six conservatives. With this being the case, it is entirely possible Roe v. Wade could be overturned and more restrictions or bans on abortions will likely start to pop up in the states.  That being said, these laws can not be enforced without the court reversing Roe vs. Wade.

Though Oklahoma is only the second state to pass such strong anti-abortion legislation, many states are expected to follow suit, leading many women to feel frustrated and wary of what the future holds in terms of access to safe abortions and all other reproductive health means.

To many, it feels as if we’re slowly starting to move backward and all the progress that has been made over the past fifty or so years is starting to feel like it’s diminishing.

In an interview with The Guardian, Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains Votes, says, “These legislators have continued their relentless attacks on our freedoms, [t]hese restrictions are not about improving the safety of the work that we do. They are about shaming and stigmatizing people who need and deserve abortion access.”

Wales is amongst many other activists who have responded to news of the legislation with heavy criticism and anger. Especially considering the fact that being convicted of performing an abortion in Oklahoma could result in up to 10 years in prison, meanwhile, the sentence for committing rape is five years, according to the document Sex Crimes in Oklahoma: definitions and punishments from

Despite all the uncertainty and uneasy feelings emerging, many are hopeful that the ruling in Roe vs. Wade will remain the “law of the land,” and these legislators’ attempts to revoke their rights will not succeed.

In an interview with the New York Times, Republican Representative Jim Olsen stated, “Obviously, I’m thrilled because we have the potential of seeing many lives of babies saved — part of that depends on future court rulings.” It’s important to note however that criminalizing abortion doesn’t stop abortions, it just prevents them from being safe. Until the Supreme Court makes a decision regarding Roe vs. Wade, America is likely to see more protests and abortion legislation emerging in an attempt to pressure the court.

Most opposition to abortion tends to stem from religious beliefs and the narrative that life begins at conception, so abortions should be considered murder. Aside from just trying to criminalize abortion, pro-life activists have also pushed for restrictions, such as only allowing abortions to take place up until the sixth week of pregnancy.

This is extremely impractical however as most women don’t even realize they’re pregnant until they’re about five to eight weeks along. At the very earliest, women can’t discover they’re pregnant until four weeks after conception when menstruation would be missed. Even then, many women have irregular menstruation cycles or may just chalk up their missed period to stress.

For a long time though, these attempts have all been struck down by the court. In more extreme cases, these self-proclaimed “abortion abolitionists,” have set fire to Planned Parenthood centers in acts of terrorism to intimidate women and health care providers. Women have had to fight for their rights in this country from its inception and not allowing women to make a choice about their own bodies takes us years backward and behind nearly every other developed nation.

As of today, abortion is one of the most important aspects of health care for women and many rely on the procedure in order to avoid debilitating physical or mental trauma or even death in severe cases, if they were forced to give birth. That’s not to say that getting abortions doesn’t take any mental or physical toll though, as having an abortion is no easy decision and it is not one made lightly amongst women.

It’s also important to note that countries that value gender equality and protecting the rights of women have all decriminalized abortions. Countries that have refused to tend to be more authoritarian, and focused on controlling women and viewing men are the superior or more dominant sex.

If the pro-life community is super concerned with the increasing number of abortions, then maybe instead of shaming women and illegalize the procedure, they should be more focused on promoting alternatives to help prevent unwanted pregnancies. For example, pushing for more comprehensive sex education and increasing access to contraceptives.

A common answer given when asked if a person believes women should have the right of choice or not is often along the lines of, “it depends on the situation.”  Yet, whether it be rape, not having the means to support a child, simply not wanting a child, etc –the situation should not matter. A woman’s body is her own and no one has the right to tell her what to do with it.

America as a whole needs to start trusting that women will make the choice that is best for them and their bodies, without any interference from the public. The reality is, abortion is an essential means of healthcare, and if America is truly “the land of the free,” then laws like Oklahoma’s will be struck down and women’s right to choose will be protected