Nearly 100 women in pink shirts rallied at the capitol last Thursday afternoon to protest legislation that would restrict Women, Infants, Children services (WIC), and enact measures that would not only make abortion services cost prohibitive, but have redefined the date women will be allowed to legally seek an abortion.Â
Â Here’s a rundown of the laws, bills and speeches.
Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1888 on April 20th. The new law prohibits a second term abortion after 20 weeks. It states that under the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, that any fetus, even if it is lacking essential brain structures because of a birth defect, can still feel pain, while its nervous system is developed at 16 weeks, it is at 20 weeks that the nervous system is fully connected to pain receptors located in primitive brain structures.
This law changes the legal termination date from 24 weeks to 20 weeks, which is around the time frameÂ most women will receive their first ultrasound. Therefore, if a woman does not discover that her pregnancy is not viable within the new time frame, then she must go out of state to terminate the pregnancy.
The new law also defines a woman as “any human female being whether she has reached the age of majority or not.”
Additionally, a provider cannot perform an abortion after 20 weeks unless the mother’s life is in danger or there is a risk of substantial and irreversible physical harm. The law explicitly excludes a woman’s psychological and emotional health as valid reasons for termination.
The event, called Pink Wave,Â welcomed speakers who had plenty to say about the new law, and to a substantial audience.
Representative Emily Virgin (D) addressed women and legislators gathered in the rotunda. She shared a story told to her by a law school classmate. Virgin said this woman had been trying to conceive with her husband for a while. After they discovered they had conceived, and at her husband’s insistence, the woman sought out a comprehensive ultrasound. The diagnostic revealed that the fetus had a birth defect known as hydranencephaly, the fetus had not developed a cerebral cortex. They were told the fetus would likely be a stillborn, which is when the baby dies after the 20th week of pregnancy but before the delivery. Or it may die shortly after birth. They chose to terminate the pregnancy. Virgin said her friend couldn’t imagine being forced to carry the pregnancy to term, and that she would not have been capable physically, mentally, or emotionally able to withstand the additional anguish of giving birth to a stillborn child or a child that would die shortly after birth.
Virgin said the new law definitely puts the women’s emotional and mental health in jeopardy. Virgin said her friend knew at 14 weeks that her pregnancy was not viable. She asked that her story be told, in part, because she was concerned about the rights of women who had fewer comprehensive options for health care.
Senate Bill 547 prohibits the state from including elective abortion in qualified health plans. It defines an “elective abortion” as any abortion performed for reasons other than protecting the mother’s life. This bill does not prevent women from purchasing optional coverage, but in subsection D it does say that an issuer of any health plan providing elective abortion coverage won’t take into account any cost reduction in any health plan covering an enrollee as a result of the provision of abortion coverage. This includes prenatal care, delivery, or postnatal care.
Unless a woman opts to buy this additional coverage, an elective abortion will not be covered by her health insurance in the event of contraception failure or rape. This would also affect the coverage of minors in the event of accidental pregnancy, rape, or incest. This would mean that if parents fail to purchase this additional coverage then they would have to pay out of pocket when their daughter needs an abortion.
And this bill would put more of a financial burden on women than on men. At the Pink Wave event Christie Breedlove (pictured above), president of the Oklahoma Federation of Democratic Women, said that women in the private industry typically earn less than men working in the same job.Â Where white men earn a dollar, Breedlove said, Â white women earn 77 cents, African American women earn 68 cents, and Hispanic women earn 55 cents.
BreedloveÂ alsoÂ addressed Rep. Sally Kern’s (R) comments on women and pay equity. Kern said she found data that indicated women who take time off from work to raise a family go on to earn the same, if not more, than men once they return to the work force. Breedlove said she has yet to find any study that supports Kern’s position.
House Bill 1970 places additional regulations on the prescription and administration of abortion drugs like RU-486 (mifespristone) or any abortion-inducing drug. If it is passed into law, the new measures may incur additional costs for providers if a patient does not return for follow-up care, as mandated by the proposed legislation. Â
Senate Bill 709 cuts WIC fundingÂ to agencies not associated with the Oklahoma Department of Health. So, women and children currently served at locations like Planned Parenthood will have to locate a state agency if they are to continue receiving their WIC vouchers and services. This places yet another burden on the woman who will have to arrange transportation if the new location is farther away than the agency currently meeting her needs.Â Â