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It’s Not All Bad


Oklahoma doctors and reproductive justice advocates are riding a victory wave that's barely made ripples in the national news.

I've been writing angry a lot recently. So much doom and gloom. Particularly since the Supreme Court's decision in Gonzales v. Carhart a few weeks ago.

But not today. Or at least, not this post. Because I've got a reproductive justice victory (!) to report on. And believe it or not that victory occurred in one of the reddest states.

Last Friday, I was able to take part in a conference call with reproductive rights advocates from Oklahoma. The advocates — doctors, lawyers, and even a sewing circle! — in April helped defeat SB714, a bill that would have prohibited the provision of abortions at state funded hospitals except for to save the life of the woman. After the bill passed in the state legislature, the governor, who has a mixed record on abortion rights, vetoed it. A veto override in the state senate failed.

The situation for reproductive rights in Oklahoma is pretty bleak: There are only 3 abortion providers, 96% of counties are without abortion services, planned parenthood does not provide abortions, and there is nowhere in the state to procure an abortion after 17 weeks. SB 714, had it become law, would have made it even more difficult for women to terminate their pregnancies in the state.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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After listening in on the conference call (which was organized by the wonderful women at National Advocates for Pregnant Women), a few things were clear. First of all, the call made clear the importance of coalition building. The bill was defeated in large part because doctors spoke out against it. The governor — and most importantly, the senator who provided the decisive vote on the override — listened to the doctors. While it's frustrating that the voices of women were not strong enough, it's also vital to recognize how powerful the alliances between the medical community and the legal/political activist community can be. Also, I now know that sewing circles don't necessarily involve sewing. As the circle's leader Wanda Jo Stapleton put it, "We comfort the needy and needle the comfortable."

Unfortunately, while the import of this victory is clear, the fight may not be over. The veto override failed, but only by one vote. A Democrat state senator, Charlie Laster, originally voted for the bill, but after listening to the doctors'advocacy, changed his mind and voted to uphold the veto.

The activists who took part in the conference call worry that the bill may yet reemerge since a re-vote on the veto override can happen at any time until this legislative session ends one year from now (OK has two-year sessions). So they're continuing to work together to fight for reproductive justice in OK. You can help shore up their efforts and build on their victories here.

Originally appeared on