Anti-abortion protestors gather outside the Oklahoma State Capitol on Feb. 11, 2020. (Michael Duncan)

The Oklahoma Legislature, in race to prove which state in the nation is most hostile to abortion access, sent four anti-abortion bills to Governor Stitt’s desk in April, all of which were signed into law.

These medically unnecessary restrictions stumble over themselves to block access to care. One bill (HB 2441) bans abortion as early as six weeks, before many people know they are pregnant. Another (HB 1102) bans abortion (again!) by making it a crime for physicians to perform the procedure except in cases of life endangerment. The third (HB 1904) reduces the number of potential providers by prohibiting any physician who is not a board-certified OB-GYN from performing abortions.

It’s almost as if these bills — allegedly created to keep Oklahomans safe — aren’t honest about their intentions.

This legislative session’s sweeping attack on abortion was an escalation. Abortion providers are used to navigating attempts to shame abortion and single it out for onerous regulations based in misinformation, but this onslaught ratcheted up the fear and intimidation tactics being used in Oklahoma.

Restrictions have consequences

Attacks against abortion hurt communities of color, young people, rural communities and people living in poverty the most. Unfortunately, a person’s ability to access abortion care often depends on where they live, how much money they have, and whether they can take time off work or find childcare.

These restrictions have real consequences. With fewer providers available, patients may have to travel considerable distances to reach them. We have capable, compassionate doctors right here in Oklahoma whose hands will be tied by this restrictive legislation if it takes effect.

Patients living in our organization’s four-state region of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma — an area the size of France — face significant barriers to care. Imagine what would happen if access to abortion across the region were eradicated.

Government is coming between doctors and patients

For most people, abortion cannot wait. Decisions about pregnancy are deeply personal and should be between families and their providers. However, anti-abortion politicians have put themselves between doctors and their patients, inserting the government into private medical decisions.

Laws designed to intimidate physicians from providing abortion services are punitive. Worse, the threats to revoke licenses and jail physicians also scare patients away from accessing abortion while providers challenge these laws in court.

Oklahoma’s politicians have forgotten that when they pass targeted and unconstitutional laws in the Capitol, their decisions hurt real people. When you’ve hollowed out access to abortion to the point that it functionally doesn’t exist, what options are left for the people of Oklahoma?

Because Oklahoma repeatedly passes unconstitutional laws, we have to go to court again and again and again with no end in sight. Though many court rulings have overturned unconstitutional abortion bans, litigation takes time and consumes taxpayer dollars. We’ll continue to protect patients’ access, but public resources should be used to increase health care, not target it.

The goal of these laws is clear: They aim to end abortion entirely in the state. In fact, the fourth bill (SB 918) outlines abortion restrictions and prohibitions that will go into effect if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Anti-abortion politicians will use any means necessary to chip away at access until our communities no longer have any. And they will continue to waste taxpayer dollars and time to push these laws through, while ignoring the actual health needs of Oklahomans.