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Pro-choice activists gather at State Capitol in defense of abortion rights

Kai Tancredi / Red Dirt Report
Despite rainy conditions, pro-choice activists showed their support for abortion rights on Monday at the Capitol.
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Pro-choice advocates took to the north steps of the Oklahoma capitol building to gather in the rain in solidarity for the National Day of Action to Defend Abortion Rights.

It was wet, but spirits were high, signs were colorful, and wire hangers were in abundance. The event was a satellite rally for events taking place all across the country in response to the passage the hotly contested #HB2 reproductive rights measure passed in a Texas special legislative session last week. The local event was promoted via Facebook only a week before it was scheduled to occur and garnered 111 RSVP’s.

Texas Bill #HB2 is famous bit of legislature opposed by State Senator Wendy Davis (D) and most of the Texas Democratic legislators. It bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and restricts procedures to being performed in ambulatory surgery centers within 100 miles of the patient.

There are five in the state and none are easily accessed by those living in rural and less populated areas of Texas. The bill was killed in the first special session by the infamous People’s Filibuster, led by Davis. The second session called by Texas Governor Rick Perry to pass the bill resulted in the formation of groups such as the Stand With Wendy campaign and the Unruly Mob, the term birthed by Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst (R-TX) in reference to the mass of protesters who derailed voting on the initial bill. 

On the rainy Monday evening here in Oklahoma, poet and writer Lauren Zuniga performed two spoken word pieces. ‘To the Oklahoma Lawmakers’ read as an impassioned open letter to legislators who passed the mandatory ultrasound law in April 2010. Immediately after the measure’s passage, the Center for Reproductive Justice filed a lawsuit to prevent its enforcement.

In March 2012, the law was ruled unconstitutional on the grounds that  it violated medical ethics by forcing doctors to perform medically unnecessary procedures and discounted women's ability to make personal health decisions without the government's interference.

A representative from Planned Parenthood pointed out Oklahoma’s abysmal statistical standing in regards to the treatment of women in the state, drawing national and international comparisons to our high rankings in violence and sexual assault against women, the incarceration of women, and the number of bills proposed in the most recent legislative session targeting reproductive rights.

Activist and educator Fannie Bates took to the steps after formal presentations concluded to encourage participants to run for public office, if not to win, then to use the campaign platform to educate residents.

Martha Skeeters spoke to the gathering about the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, and the ramifications of legislature like Texas Bill #HB2 as “an attack on women’s sexuality”.

OCRJ regularly engages in legal battles with Oklahoma lawmakers over reproductive rights, most notably acting as the plaintiffs in the aforementioned sonogram law from 2010. “If we have a myth in this country that everyone has access to equal treatment, we need to put in place policies that reflect that.”

There is something to be said about the way HB2 has resonated into a call to action across the country and how quickly the mobilization has occured. The need for organizations like the OCRJ to question legislative practices on behalf of women in itself speaks volumes. It is a subject matter that needs to be watched and a dialogue that needs to be hosted in Oklahoma as badly if not more so than anywhere else in the country. Monday’s event created an opportunity to network to promote the growth of future visibility where women’s rights are concerned. Event organizer

Derek Lewis has high hopes. “I hope that we will have several events in future. I was definitely pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who decided to come out and demonstrate in the rain. It actually made me really proud of Oklahoma. It's good to know that a community for political activism does actually exist here.”

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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