Black Maternal Health Week: Legislators push women’s health restrictions

by Erika DuBose
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Community-Based Doulas associated with Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative. They support expecting mothers and families in Tulsa. / Facebook photo

Just in time for Black Maternal Health Week, Oklahoma legislators are continuing their attempts to curb reproductive care for women and families. A flurry of new bills have been introduced. They aim to restrict women from receiving safe and legal healthcare at reproductive women’s health clinics across the state.

Oklahoma, which boasts being among the 10 least-healthy states in America, is also in the top three for restrictions on women’s health care. The difficulty in obtaining safe reproductive health care disproportionately affects Black women who make up only 10 percent of Oklahoma’s births, while accounting for over 20 percent of maternal deaths.

SB 778

Senate Bill 778, which limits the rights of physicians to speak openly and honestly with their patients, while forcing them to engage in specific rhetoric in order to provide medically-appropriate care, was introduced in January by Republican Senator Daniels. Physicians who do not comply with the requirements are subject to civil penalties. It includes the possibility of criminal felony charges.

SB 779

Meanwhile, SB 779 was introduced in the aftermath of SB 778. It regards medication used to provide women with safe and legal reproductive healthcare. This onerous legislation would create a certification program for physicians who are already trained and licensed to provide medication for women. It creates yet another step in the long process for a woman to obtain care. 

Bills target health care providers

Finally, multiple bills put women’s healthcare providers at risk. House Bill 1102, HB 1904, and SB 612 all promote further restrictions on physicians’ ability to provide safe and effective care for their patients through the threat of more civil and criminal charges. These bills will further limit vulnerable women in Oklahoma from receiving the appropriate medical care they need. And it comes during a deadly pandemic.

Oklahoma Planned Parenthood urges legislators to repudiate these bills and vote against them. Vulnerable communities in Oklahoma will be directly affected by these restrictions, particularly Black and BIPOC women and their families, who are already at greater risk of reproductive health conditions that require exceptional care from their providers. 

Please join the Black Wall St. Times at the Black Maternal Health Week virtual town hall on Thursday, April 15 at 6:30, hosted by Tulsa Birth Equity Initiative.

(Author’s note: The Black Wall St. Times is a sponsor of the event.)

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