Things are about to go from bad to worse in Oklahoma: Governor signs off on Texas-style abortion restrictions

An admitting privilege requirement threatens to leave one clinic to serve 3.8 million people

Topics: Abortion, abortion care, abortion services, Reproductive Rights, reproductive justice, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, , ,

Things are about to go from bad to worse in Oklahoma: Governor signs off on Texas-style abortion restrictionsAnti-abortion activists (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, who supports state-sanctioned torture but doesn’t support affordable healthcare, has signed a measure that will likely shutter two of the state’s three remaining abortion clinics and deny Oklahomans comprehensive reproductive healthcare because “culture of life.”

As is the case in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and elsewhere in the country, these barriers to access will hit low-income people, people of color and people living in rural areas the hardest. Oklahoma is already a low-access state, with just one clinic for every 1 million residents. These measures will make it pretty much a no-access state.

As the Daily O’Collegian notes, Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa each has one clinic, but the admitting-privilege requirement, once it goes into effect, could leave the state with a single clinic for its 3.8 million residents. States throughout the South are in the midst of a full-blown reproductive health crisis, and the Oklahoma measure — as well as a series of new restrictions in Louisiana and Texas — have made a dire situation much worse.

This is a projection of the access map:

 

That’s bleak. Not only will the people of Oklahoma be forced to travel, in some cases, across state lines to access basic care. But because of regulations in neighboring states, access elsewhere in the region may become virtually nonexistent. That means that an entire swath of the country is on the verge of living as though Roe v. Wade never happened.

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As Dr. Willie Parker, a provider in Mississippi who is currently challenging the admitting privileges requirement in that state, recently told Salon, these desperate circumstances will lead people to take desperate measures:

I can’t predict what women [in Mississippi and throughout the region] would do [if they lose access to abortion services] but I know what is already happening, and the logical conclusion would be that — as in every place on the planet, both in this country and others before Roe and after Roe — when women are desperate to not be pregnant they do whatever they need to make that happen.

Before Roe, that meant women taking risks with their health and their lives. And after Roe it will be more of the same. Maybe it won’t be the literal coat hanger, but I have seen do-it-yourself instructions on the Internet about how to terminate a pregnancy. I do know that there are people marketing medicines and drugs to accomplish the same goals. And desperation leads to exploitation. People are recognizing an opportunity to  capitalize on the desperation of women. [Drug sellers] will put drugs in concoctions available on the Internet and there will be no way for women to receive instructions around how to use those medications or even a quality assurance around whether or not those medicines actually have the medical ingredients necessary to accomplish the intent. So women will, out of desperation, take desperate measures and they will be victims of people who are looking for a market opportunity to capitalize on their desperation. So it would represent, ironically, the jeopardizing of women’s health even though the [admitting privileges] bill purports to improve women’s safety by hyper-regulating abortion clinics, and by requiring hospital admitting privileges.

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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