Legislature ponders Planned Parenthood defunding, abortion rights advocates tout “Choice Now and Always”

A large crowd came to the Oklahoma state Capitol yesterday (Thursday, May 12) to oppose a wave of anti-abortion laws enacted in the Sooner State over recent years. One focus of the activist scrutiny was Senate Bill 709, not yet enacted but which could deprive Planned Parenthood of government money due to the organization’s abortion services.

Pro-choice speakers at the rally asserted S.B. 709 endangers provision of vital nutrition programs, but pro-life advocates countered by telling CapitolBeatOK that the measure targets abortion providers. 

Sponsoring and organizing the event were members of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, Trust Women PAC, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Tulsa Reproductive Services, Sally’s List, the state Federation of Democratic Women and a religious coalition backing abortion services.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma contends S.B. 709 would defund a nutrition program that services women and children in the Tulsa area. Countering that, former state Rep. Kevin Calvey, now working with Oklahomans for Life, countered the legislation would allow continued WIC (Women, Infants and Children) services, but not through abortion providers. 

The event supporting abortion choice and opposing S.B. 709 drew a few hundred people, both women and men, to the fourth floor rotunda of the state Capitol. The crowd this year was a larger crowd than a similar press conference/activist meeting late in the 2010 legislative session.

Legal provisions the coalition opposed in past legislative have since been woven into Oklahoma law. 

After the rally and enthusiastic response to the speakers, many participants dispersed to the offices of legislators to express opposition to this year’s wave of anti-abortion legislation.

Pro-life Republican lawmakers  like Pam Peterson of Tulsa, Mike Ritze of Tulsa, Clark Jolley of Edmond and Anthony Sykes of Moore have pressed a new wave of laws placing restrictions on access to abortion.
Editor’s note: Photos from Thursday’s rally were provided by Rena Guay.