State legislators are once again proving that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness doesn’t apply to all Oklahoma residents. Upon returning to the Capitol during the worst pandemic in 100 years, policies to protect the lives of Oklahomans were glaringly absent from state lawmakers’ priority list.
Instead, empowering churches to return to full capacity was at the top of that list, followed by impeding women’s rights to bodily autonomy. Despite the fact that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has suggested churches should only return to full services when at least 70% of the population has been vaccinated for Covid, Oklahoma leaders want people back in packed pews ASAP.
While proponents of such mass gatherings clearly place their “religious freedom” over public health, the ACLU of Oklahoma reminds citizens that freedom does not give license to put others at risk. Public health officials have also stated repeatedly that large religious gatherings are among the greatest risks for contracting Covid, particularly gatherings of 500 worshipers or more.
Meanwhile, back at the Oklahoma Senate Health and Human Services Committee, today’s agenda included placing further restrictions on the rights of women to bodily autonomy. Following legislation that promotes a tangled web of confusion for women seeking healthcare, the availability of safe and legal abortion in Oklahoma remains in jeopardy. Barriers to women’s healthcare hits hardest for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable communities: low-income families, BIPOC, young people, and survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
The ACLU of Oklahoma vows to keep fighting. Oklahoma ACLU executive director Tomya Cox-Toure confirmed that the ACLU won’t stop in the face of policies deliberating harming Oklahoma’s most vulnerable communities, stating, “We’ve been here before. We didn’t back down then, and we certainly won’t now.”