OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A new bill at the Oklahoma State Capitol would establish a government database assigning women looking to get an abortion a number in the system. Supporters say it will help make sure pregnant women get the information they need before they make a decision. Opponents say it’s a burdensome law that makes it even harder for women to have access to the procedures they want.
Last session, Oklahoma lawmakers passed multiple anti-abortion bills – and it looks like this spring could be similar.
A bill just filed by State Senate Republicans could add another step to the abortion process in Oklahoma.
Senate Bill 1167, filed by Sen. George Burns, R-Pollard, is called the “Every Mother Matters Act” or “EMMA.”
“Many women facing unexpected pregnancies turn to abortion because they feel like they have no choice. We want to make sure they have an opportunity to connect with medical, financial and other resources that they may not know about,” Burns said. “This legislation will do that as well as provide screening to identify those who’ve been victims of crime so that, with the woman’s consent, a report can be made to the appropriate law enforcement agency.”
The bill requires a woman seeking an abortion be given a pre-abortion resource access assistance offer.
If she accepts, she’ll be given information on support services.
“We should provide every means possible so that they are fully informed and every step possible to try to protect those lives of the unborn,” said Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow.
However, some are concerned with some of the legislation’s stipulations.
“Once again, we are seeing legislators who have no idea about the many obstacles pregnant people already have to go through to access an abortion in Oklahoma,” said Tamya Cox-Toure, head of the ACLU of Oklahoma.
Cox-Toure is concerned with the bill’s language that requires each pregnant woman seeking abortion access to get a “unique identifying number,” – no woman would be able to receive an abortion until they’re assigned one.
The law also mandates abortion providers must store the woman’s information for seven years.
“Who holds on to this number? Where does that information go to? It goes to the state where we know we’ve seen data breaches, privacy issues happen,” said Cox-Toure.
We reached out to Burns’ office to see how that information would be protected, but never got a response.
The Trust Women reproductive health clinic in south Oklahoma City issued a statement to KFOR, saying,
Trust Women believes in the ability and right of every person to make their own decisions about their health care, including the decision to have an abortion. Restricting or banning abortion care has profound negative consequences for the lives and well-beings of Oklahomans.
Rather than introducing dangerous legislation that would negatively impact the health and well-being of constituents, lawmakers have other options. Politicians should focus on the many programs that would positively impact the lives of Oklahomans. These include Medicaid expansion, increased funding for early education, and expanded access to telemedicine abortion care, among many others.
In the face of hundreds of women traveling thousands of miles to receive legal, constitutionally protected abortion care that their own state has denied them, politicians signal their intent to turn their backs not only on their neighbors to the south, but their own constituents. Any plans by politicians to submit dangerous and unconstitutional legislation during this year’s legislative session miss the point. They still have time to make a different plan, one that includes improving the quality of life for the people they serve.
Some are calling the new law burdensome and unnecessary.
“We are not requiring this of any other medical procedure, where we are having a third party that is unrelated, has no relationship with the patient, to now ask very invasive questions. So we should all be concerned,” said Cox-Toure.
But the Republican lawmakers are not swayed.
“No other medical procedure is actually terminating the life of an innocent unborn child, I would say it is not too burdensome in order to protect more lives and rescue more lives of the unborn,” said Dahm.
“My ultimate goal is ending abortion altogether, and that fight continues,” Burns said. “But we must also do all we can as a state to help present compassionate options for those faced with unexpected pregnancies that promote the preservation and dignity of life for mothers and their babies.”
This bill, along with the other abortion laws filed, can be heard in committee this session.
The legislature session begins on Feb. 7.