Oklahoma abortion bans endanger women’s lives

In 2023, lawmakers control autonomy

Maggie OBrien

More stories from Maggie O'Brien

Across the Pond
February 28, 2024

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Womens march. Young woman with face mask holding banner sign – We are not incubators to regulate. protest against strict abortion laws. High quality photo

On April 23, 2023, National Public Radio published a health news article titled “In Oklahoma, a woman was told to wait until she’s ‘crashing’ for abortion care.”

Yes, you read that correctly, this was written in 2023. I was appalled by the title of this article and after reading through it, was further disgusted by the state of reproductive care in Oklahoma and other states with similar restrictive laws.

It’s been nearly a year since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, after 50 years of legally protected abortions.

This decision took away access to abortions as a federal right in the United States and allowed individual states to create limiting laws or completely ban abortion rights. The consequences have been life-threatening and disastrous.

According to NPR, Jaci Statton, the woman described in the headline of this article, had a cancerous molar pregnancy, Statton said

In the article, Statton said the doctors at the hospital in Oklahoma said, “We cannot touch you unless you are crashing in front of us or your blood pressure goes so high that you are fixing to have a heart attack.”
According to NPR, Oklahoma has three overlapping abortion bans, with individual and occasionally even contradictory definitions and exceptions. This results in mass confusion as hospitals try to interpret these laws and establish complying policies.
Uncertainty in situations like Statton’s can lead to the loss of lives. People who can give birth should not be required to be in critical condition to receive life-saving abortions.
When lawmakers are allowed to decide who “qualifies” for an abortion, both medical care professionals and mothers run the risk of getting into legal trouble.
On Thursday, May 26, 2022, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt released the following statement in which he said, “I promised Oklahomans that as governor I would sign every piece of pro-life legislation that came across my desk and I am proud to keep that promise today.”
According to an NPR article, one of the three Oklahoma abortion bans entails criminal penalties, including felony charges and up to five years in prison, for anyone who administers, prescribes or even advises a woman to get an abortion.
Oklahoma lawmakers are not alone in their efforts to ban safe abortions and reproductive healthcare, but states like Illinois oppose pro-life efforts and are making an effort to provide for non-residents.
On January 13, 2023, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed HB4664, a reproductive rights and gender-affirming care omnibus bill that protects healthcare providers and their patients from legal attacks by neighboring states and expands healthcare access and options across the state
According to Illinois.gov, after signing this bill, Pritzker said, “Last summer, when Roe v. Wade was overturned, I made a promise that Illinois would remain a beacon of hope and an island for reproductive justice for all who seek it. This bill fulfills that promise.”
Pritzker and similar pro-choice lawmakers seek to provide harbor and options for those residing in states with limited or no reproductive health care and prove that it is highly unlikely that abortion will ever be banned throughout the entire United States.
People like Jacci Statton should not have to travel to seek an abortion or reproductive healthcare, but that is the reality for many people who can give birth in 2023.
If lawmakers continue to ignore the fact that they can only limit safe abortions, and not abortions altogether, cases like Statton’s will become the new normal. This heartbreaking and infuriating truth will not cease unless people use their voices and take meaningful action.
For a list of organizations, you can donate to, support or volunteer for in the fight for abortion rights, check out this article from W Magazine.
O’Brien can be reached at [email protected].