How can choice advocates ensure more outcomes like this one?
If a reproductive-rights victory is achieved, and few witness it, did it really happen?
Of course it did!
Back in April, grass-roots and state activists in Oklahoma helped block SB-714 (PDF), which was poised to ban the use of public funds to pay for abortions except to save the life of the mother. Oklahoma’s Gov. Brad Henry vetoed the bill, but its backers threatened to override the veto — and fell short by just one vote.
In its original form, SB-714 would have prohibited state employees or facilities, including agencies that receive state funding, from performing or “encouraging” a woman to have an abortion. The legislation would have prohibited publicly funded hospitals from providing women therapeutic abortions, which protect the health of the mother or terminate a pregnancy in which the fetus demonstrates a genetic anomaly.
This state-level victory received little media or blog coverage, and was quickly overshadowed by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.
Thankfully, National Advocates for Pregnant Women prevented the victory from going unnoticed by organizing a conference call May 4, and I was able to listen in.
It was a rare pleasure to discuss a reproductive-rights victory with those who achieved it, but there was more to this conference call than a celebration of success. Reproductive freedom is being attacked on multiple fronts, so the Oklahoma outcome provides an opportunity to learn what works. The conference call afforded a snapshot of how the various components of the movement can work together to achieve success.
Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma director of external affairs Keri Parks opened the call with information about access to abortion in Oklahoma. In short, it’s a little bleak: There are only three abortion providers in the state, and abortions are not provided anywhere in Oklahoma after 17 weeks. PPCO, where Parks works, does not provide abortion services.
But the shortage of providers may have had a silver lining when it came to defeating SB-714. Parks explained that PPCO has a limited advocacy budget, so the organization had to partner with other groups to fight the bill.
Doctors were crucial to the Oklahoma victory. Call participant Dana Stone pointed out that the bill emerged from committee with little input having been sought from medial professionals. (Stone is an OB-GYN, vice president of PPCO’s board of directors and Oklahoma representative for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.) Many members of the medical community joined in opposition to SB-714, including the Oklahoma Section of the ACOG (PDF), the Oklahoma State Medical Association (PDF) and the Oklahoma Nurses Association (PDF). This advocacy helped persuade state Sen. Charlie Laster, a Democrat, to prevent the override. He told the Oklahoman, “I initially voted in favor of Senate Bill 714. However, in the days since that vote, I have visited with Governor Henry and multiple medical professionals. I am pro-life, and I have consistently voted for pro-life legislation. This bill, however, holds poorer Oklahomans to a different standard than everyone else, and I can’t support that.” Score!
Rallying opposition to the bill also required help from people with experience in state and local politics. Wanda Jo Stapleton, a former state representative and feminist activist and lobbyist in Oklahoma City, says she was amazed by the arrogance of SB-714′s backers. In response, activists refuted misinformation about the bill, like the flawed notion that the legislation wouldn’t detract from patient care. Activists were able visit legislators’ communities and educate their constituents about the real language contained in SB-714 and the impact that language would have on women’s lives. “Making nice and being passive only gets you a pat on the head,” Stapleton said.
Friday’s conference call underscored the message that collective partnerships between groups with diverse strengths help choice advocacy pack a greater punch. Of course, SB-714 could appear again in Oklahoma. But Stapleton emerged from the legislative fight with a heartening conclusion: Community education and grass-roots activism can change the minds of the public and of elected officials. We may experience setbacks at the state and local levels, but choice advocates need to be proactive.
We must be prepared for the challenges sure to come, and we can learn a lot from victories hard won.
More Related Stories
- How I ended up in a pyramid scheme
- My bipolar partner beat me
- Teenagers care more about online privacy than you think
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- Kicked out of the mall -- for an anti-cancer hat
- Why do men pretend to be women online?
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Is Pittsburgh the next Portland?
- Tornado survivor to Wolf Blitzer: Sorry, I'm an atheist. I don't have to thank the Lord
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- San Francisco Giant Jeremy Affeldt apologizes for homophobic past
- Wall Street firm's "Golden Pitchbook" is totally sexist, full of lies
- Federal court strikes down Arizona abortion ban
- I'm not achieving my dreams!
- The most popular Tumblr porn
- Slave descendants seek equal rights from Cherokee Nation
- Snapchat is secretly storing your photos
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Facebook's hate speech problem
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11