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ACLU-OK, Planned Parenthood speak out against anti-LGBT, anti-abortion bills

Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report
Ryan Kiesel, Executive Director of Oklahoma’s ACLU.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, along with members from Planned Parenthood Great Plains, supporters and Oklahoma legislators called out legislative members to kill bills that limit access to reproductive health services and target and marginalize LGBQ citizens.

In a press conference held at the Oklahoma State Capitol, Troy Stevenson, director of Freedom Oklahoma, specifically called on Sen. Joseph Silk (R-Broken Bow), Rep. Chuck Strohm (R-Tulsa) and Sen. Josh Brecheen (R-Coalgate) to remove bills that target the LGBT community.

In addition, 11 anti-abortion bills have been filed in advance of the 2017 legislative session, including bills that require the consent of the father of a fetus for an abortion and others that criminalize and dictates that a person commits murder in the first degree when that person performs an abortion after conception.

“For the third year in a row, there are multiple anti-LGBT bills that have been put forward in the legislature,” said Stevenson. “Unlike other years, there are only three of the 149 sitting legislators who have. This is a small cabal.”

Brecheen’s bill states that “based on the findings in this resolution, all regulations imposed by the United States Department of Education (DOE) concerning transgender education or procedures are void in Oklahoma.”

Sen. Silk’s "Oklahoma Right of Conscience Act" would allow businesses and individuals to refuse service “if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs or conscience of the individual regarding marriage, lifestyle or behavior.”

Rep. Strohm filed House Bill 1507, which allows private child-placing agencies to deny placement based on if that placement violates the written religious or moral convictions or policies of the agency, which opponents say could discriminate against placing children with same-sex couples.

Silk also has bills that require death certificates for abortions and criminalizing doctors who perform abortions. Other anti-abortion bills range from preventing doctors to perform an abortion if the physician determines the embryonic or fetal heartbeat is audible to not re-issuing medical licenses to doctors who perform abortions.

Silk, Strohm and Brecheen did not respond to request for comments by press time.

Tamya Cox, regional director of public policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said for the first time in their history, Planned Parenthood is offering abortion services in the state of Oklahoma, and is committed to providing reproductive services in the state.

“This session, PPGP is prepared to fight the 11 pre-filed abortion bills that threaten the constitutional right of women, men and families in Oklahoma,” said Cox. “The state of Oklahoma cannot afford to wage ideological attacks that will result in costly court battles.”

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU-OK, accused the Oklahoma legislature of playing political distraction using the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

“With regards to the legislation that deals with reproductive rights, in the more than 40 years since Roe vs. Wade became law, politicians have engaged relentless in attacking women in stripping them of their right to make their own personal decisions,” he said. “These attacks in Oklahoma have grown egregious and more egregious each year. We know these attacks are disingenuous, irresponsible and dangerous.”

Kiesel said Sen. Silk’s bill especially is one of the most extreme anti-choice bills in the country.  He also said that the ACLU will fight the bills that marginalize LGBT citizens and claimed that the bills were an attempt to use religion as a weapon.

“Weaponizing religion as an excuse to push away Oklahoma’s most marginalized people is an expression of bigotry,” he said. “Instead, Oklahoma legislators should be looking at measures that extend greater protections to the LGBT community in the state of Oklahoma.”

Kiesel called on Oklahoma’s leadership to kill the bills immediately.

“The response from leadership is silence,” he said. “I would ask them, those members of leadership, ‘Where are you? You have to stand up.’”

Democratic legislators also spoke up against the bill, including Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City), Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman) and Rep. Collin Walke (D-Oklahoma City).

“These bills, especially the religious freedom bills, are irresponsible,” Walke said. “These bills are not only fiscally irresponsible, they are morally irresponsible. They will legitimize and institutionalize racism, and that is irresponsible.”

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