Oklahoma Lawmakers Shouldn’t Force Abortionists To Post Pro-Life Messages

Oklahoma Lawmakers Shouldn’t Force Abortionists To Post Pro-Life Messages

Coercion is not a good look on the abortion lobby, and it’s not something the pro-life movement ought to emulate. We should be arguing about abortion, not speech rights.
Jay Hobbs
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As a rule of thumb, pretty much anything that causes abortion supporters to recoil in horror is a good sign. To see this proposed litmus test in action, just check out the reaction of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act Gov. John Kasich signed into law December 13, which caps abortion statewide at 20 weeks.

“There’s no way we’re going to take this lying down,” NARAL state spokesman Gabriel Mann told The New York Times. “It’s too horrific of a restriction for women who are facing medical complications and situations where they need an abortion around that 20-week period.”

As a quick primer, high-risk OB-GYNs—in sharp distinction from NARAL’s regional sales managers—consistently testify that abortions are never medically necessary to save the life of a mother. Also keep in mind the bill does contain an exception for the life and health of a mother, which would negate Mann’s argument even if it held any water to begin with.

Still, “too horrific,” we’re told. The law, which is set to take effect 90 days following Kasich’s signature, corresponds with a timeframe where medical textbooks and journals teach an unborn child can feel pain while he or she is being aborted. That’s a bridge too far for NARAL, which doesn’t plan to “take this lying down,” even if it means taking its unrighteous indignation all the way to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, abortion-peddlers of the Left are busy hand wringing over the mere possibility of Planned Parenthood losing a portion of its $500 million average cut of the federal kitty—even while a Senate committee is calling in the FBI to investigate the nation’s leading abortion business for its illegal for-profit selling of body parts harvested from aborted babies.

A Trace Amount of Validity

As reliable as the test may be, however, it does have its limits. Once in a blue moon, abortion advocates’ rage does contain a trace amount of validity to which we should give a moment’s pause. Such is the case, it seems, in Oklahoma, where the state’s Board of Health approved pro-life signage that abortion providers will be forced to post in January 2018. As usual, abortion proponents are hopping mad. The difference seems to be that they may have a point.

Signed into law by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin back in June, the state’s Humanity of the Unborn Child Act is an effort to spread awareness both for the sanctity of human life and the availability of life-affirming alternatives to abortion throughout the state.

The legislation proposes to create a website that lists state-approved pro-life pregnancy help, empower public school nurses to better assist pregnant teens—referring them only to pro-life pregnancy centers—and use public service announcements in an effort to move toward “an abortion-free society.” So far so good, in other words.

The sticking point is the law’s signage requirement. It currently applies to “each facility in [the] state which is open to the public,” meaning virtually everything from restaurants and bars to hospitals and public schools. But a change from the bill’s sponsor would narrowly tailor it to apply only to the state’s five existing abortion business locations. The signage would read:

There are many public and private agencies willing and able to help you carry your child to term and assist you and your child after your child is born, whether you choose to keep your child or to place him or her for adoption. The State of Oklahoma strongly urges you to contact them if you are pregnant.

While such a statement is indeed both life-affirming and true, forcing abortion facilities to post it smacks of the very same sort of government-mandated speech pregnancy centers are fighting in both California and Illinois.

In Illinois, medical professionals of all stripes are fighting a 2016 law that would force them to directly refer patients for abortions and counsel them about the so-called “benefits” of abortion. The law in California is markedly similar to the signage proposal in Oklahoma. California’s pro-abortion legislature passed its so-called “Reproductive FACT Act” in 2015. The law, which has been enforced in three cases even as it is being challenged in the courts, requires pro-life pregnancy help centers and medical clinics to post signs in their waiting rooms promoting state-covered abortions.

Although the signage in California communicates the opposite message to what’s being proposed in Oklahoma, both states’ mandated language, while true, represents a significant challenge to free speech rights enshrined by the First Amendment. In California and in Oklahoma, the problem isn’t that what the proposed signs say is false, but rather, the signs are the state’s way to force compliance with a certain viewpoint.

Go Easy on Regulating Free Speech

Weaponizing the state to force speech is a two-edged sword. It may seem like an expedient way to handle business when you’re the one holding the sword, but it can become decidedly inconvenient in a hurry.

It’s a tactic of the Left and the abortion lobby to puppeteer others into speaking their own message. Just a year ago, the head of NARAL’s California chapter, Amy Everitt, waved off the First Amendment rights of pro-lifers, admitting to a reporter that her organization “can’t regulate free speech.” She wasn’t finished: “If we could we would, but we can’t.” We have a word for what Everitt is dreaming of: coercion. It’s not a good look on the abortion lobby, and it’s not something the pro-life movement ought to emulate.

That’s not to say all mandatory signage is zero sum. What about mandating, for instance, signs that speak to the serious physical and psychological risks abortion poses to women? A recent bombshell released by Americans United for Life (AUL), “Unsafe: How The Public Health Crisis in America’s Abortion Clinics Endangers Women,” tells the story of an abortion industry that callously puts its own profits above the health and safety of women. The 200-page report—covering only 227 abortion providers throughout the U.S.—documents more than 1,400 health and safety violations in the past eight years alone.

Instead of going to war to force abortion businesses to advertise for pro-life options, wouldn’t Oklahoma best serve its citizens by alerting them—in that crucial moment—to the incredible risks of abortion? A disclaimer that warns women of the dangers of abortion would preserve free speech by meeting the constitutional standard of viewpoint neutrality. As the nation’s top pro-life state (per AUL), Oklahoma has a perfect opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the nation by bringing desperately needed awareness to the homicidal nonchalance of the abortion industry.

This type of information is exactly what pro-life pregnancy centers have relayed to their clients for decades. Unlike highly profitable abortion businesses that often leave out the truth, pregnancy centers, ultrasound-equipped medical clinics, and 24-7 hotlines provide the facts about a baby’s development and the many serious dangers of abortion.

Rather than evening the score for the abuses of pro-abortion states like California and Illinois, pro-life states like Oklahoma needs to focus on making sure each woman has all the information she needs to make the healthiest choice for everyone involved in an unexpected pregnancy. That’s surely the intent behind the current disclaimer, but now’s the chance to ensure the safety of Oklahoma moms and babies without turning the abortion wars into the free speech wars.

Part-time thinker, full-time husband, daddy, pastor, and baseball fan, Jay Hobbs serves as editor in chief of PregnancyHelpNews.com.

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