Restrooms in hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, and public schools in Oklahoma will have to post signs with information directing pregnant women to seek services other than abortions under new regulations approved Tuesday.
The signs would be installed before January 2018 in all facilities licensed by the state Department of Health with restrooms that are available to the public.
The Humanity of the Unborn Child Act approved by the State Board of Health was intended to expose the public to information "for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society." It was requested by the anti-abortion group, Oklahomans for Life.
The regulation is expected to cost affected businesses an estimated $2.3 million because the Oklahoma Legislature did not approve any money to fund sign posting, prompting complaints from business owners. Even the sponsor of the bill considered revising the requirements.
However, Tony Lauinger, state chairman of Oklahomans for Life, told BuzzFeed News he thinks the financial estimate is "a bit exaggerated."
"The signage doesn’t have to be anything elaborate," he said "It just has to provide a website that women could access to get information about the life-affirming services in the area."
The website will contain information for "pregnant women — especially younger women — about the development of the unborn child in the womb," Lauinger said. It will also list various anti-abortion resources, such as pregnancy crisis centers, which encourage women to have their child or put it up for adoption rather than have an abortion.
He added that the intent of the bill was to have the Oklahoma Health Department fund the signs, but they are only able to if lawmakers appropriate funding to do so.
The Oklahoma Hospital Association projected it would cost at least $225,000 for signage at the state's 140 licensed hospitals, with the fiscal impact on other licensed industries estimated at about $2.1 million.
The sign would have a link to the website and state:
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.
It is unclear whether the signs are required to be posted in both male and female restrooms.
"I do see how it is going to need to be tempered a tad," the bill's Republican sponsor, A.J. Griffin, told the Associated Press. "We need to make sure we have something that's reasonable and still effective."
The move came on the same day that the Oklahoma Supreme Court tossed out a law requiring abortion clinics to obtain hospital admitting privileges, alleviating significant burdens on abortion providers.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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