Abortion rights advocates gather outside the Oklahoma Capitol in Oklahoma City on April 5 to protest several anti-abortion bills being considered by the GOP-led legislature. (Photo: AP Photo/Sean Murphy)
The Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade is a devastating blow for the health and well-being of all women. Today, there are 13 states with “trigger laws” on the books that immediately take effect with the precedent-destroying decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Today’s decision is a first ― never in our history has the Supreme Court overturned five decades of precedent to take away rights from more than half of all Americans.
It’s especially dangerous for women in Oklahoma, as our governor recently signed the most extreme abortion restrictions in the country, completely banning abortion after fertilization, threatening doctors with 10 years in prison, and deputizing private citizens as bounty hunters in an archaic “sue-thy-neighbor” model first enacted in Texas. With the stroke of a pen, Oklahoma, the state I represented in Congress, became the first to effectively overturn Roe v. Wade, even before the Supreme Court’s decision.
Banning abortion without exception puts all women at risk. It is government overreach, plain and simple, and it’s wrong. Women have a right to privacy. Women have a right to health care. Women’s rights are not something that can just be stripped away.
Do we want to live in a country where government minders follow us into the bedroom, the bathroom, the doctor’s office, and every other intimate aspect of our lives? Should doctors be forced to let women die rather than save their lives due to an ectopic pregnancy or any number of life-threatening complications? Do victims of rape and incest need to be further victimized by robbing them of their autonomy?
Oklahoma ranks as the fourth-deadliest state in the country when it comes to deaths of pregnant women and mothers, and we have the fifth-worst infant mortality rate according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But rather than pursuing solutions to improve health and safety, extremists have focused on the hyperpartisan approach that has become an unfortunate hallmark of our political system and threatens the very fabric of our democracy.
A clear bipartisan majority of Oklahomans oppose the new compete abortion ban at fertilization. A poll conducted in December ― before the draft Supreme Court decision was leaked and the Oklahoma law was signed ― showed less than a third of the state supported a total ban, with 78% of Democrats, 55% of independents, and even 40% of Republicans against it. A more recent poll from April found that 56% of Oklahomans would vote against a candidate who supports these measures.
This is not democracy ― this is what happens when extremists are in charge. Dobbs, the precedent-busting Supreme Court decision, originated in Mississippi, one of the 13 trigger-law states. If we continue leaving behind women in these states by allowing one side of the aisle to strip their rights away and the other to abandon them, big decisions where the rights of millions hang in the balance will continue. We’re not going to stop the erosion of rights fought and earned over decades, or government overreach, by merely sending fundraising emails. The truth is, very few of these resources ever make it to the places they’re needed most.
Stopping the extremists who are endangering the lives of women across the country must happen on the front lines, where the war on women is being fought. As the first, and only, Democratic woman ever elected to Congress from Oklahoma and the nominee for U.S. Senate in this year’s special election, I couldn’t sit on the sidelines while extremists continue eroding our freedom.
We don’t have to accept extremism as a reality ― we can invest in leaders who are committed to improving lives and protecting freedoms, rather than stripping them away. Writing off elections in large swaths of the country as hopeless and unwinnable allows extremists to gain more political power and emboldens those in other states to follow suit.
Now, more than ever, we must act. To do nothing and leave the women whose lives are in jeopardy to fend for themselves is cruel. Truly caring about the lives of all women everywhere means stepping up to support women in Oklahoma and other “trigger law” states.
Doing so will let women everywhere know that no matter where you live, we have your back. To do anything less than showing up in all the places women are being most harmed implies that the lives of some women are more valuable than others.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.