Oklahoma lawmakers are currently advancing two measures intended to restrict abortion access even further in a state that already makes it incredibly difficult to end a pregnancy. On Tuesday, a House committee approved a harsh abortion restriction that’s directly modeled after a new law in Texas that has forced dozens of clinics to close in the Lone Star State.
One of the proposed measures would require abortion providers in Oklahoma to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their practice. Essentially, doctors would need to enter into a partnership with a local hospital, just in case one of their patients experiences serious complications from an abortion procedure and needs to be transferred there — even though the rate of complications from abortion that are serious enough to require hospitalization is estimated at just 0.5 percent.
This type of unnecessary state law is known as the “targeted regulation of abortion providers,” or TRAP. Oklahoma actually already has an existing TRAP law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges. It just doesn’t specify that the hospitals in question must be within a 30-mile radius.
The state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is skeptical that it’s really necessary to enact additional legislation in this area. “We’re being given a rationale that’s grounded in providing a safe atmosphere for Oklahoma’s women, but at the end of the day that’s just smoke and mirrors,” the director of Oklahoma’s ACLU, Ryan Kiesel, noted.
But Rep. Mike Ritze (R), who wrote the new bill, apparently believes it’s important to clarify the existing regulations. “It’s a safety issue. A person can hemorrhage to death very quickly,” Ritze explained to the Associated Press. “If you’re dealing with minutes to save somebody…you better have a backup plan in place.” Ritze also boasts that his new measure is identical to the one that was recently enacted in Texas.
Thanks to Texas’ new TRAP law, clinics in the state are struggling to remain open. Some abortion providers have been forced to scale back their work because they used to provide abortions at several different clinics, but now they’re unable to practice outside of the 30-mile hospital radius. The remaining clinics have huge patient loads, and thousands of women are simply not able to access the services they need. An estimated 22,000 Texas women won’t be able to get a safe and legal abortion this year. Those women are already extremely economically disadvantaged.
That’s the reproductive rights landscape that Oklahoma lawmakers are attempting to emulate. In fact, Oklahoma’s GOP-controlled legislature has become somewhat of a “testing ground” for some of the most restrictive anti-choice laws in the nation, and the state already has practically every possible restriction on the books.
Not every lawmaker in Oklahoma is pleased with the state’s constant quest to limit women’s access to reproductive health care, however. Last year, state Rep. Doug Cox (R) — who’s a practicing physician — admonished his fellow Republicans for waging a war on abortion and contraception. “What happened to the Republican Party that I joined?” Cox lamented in an op-ed. “What happened to the Republican Party that felt that the government has no business being in an exam room, standing between me and my patient? Where did the party go that felt some decisions in a woman’s life should be made not by legislators and government, but rather by the women, her conscience, her doctor and her God?”