Oklahoma health, education rankings can’t support unwanted pregnancies
When Justice Amy Coney Barrett began her duties on the United States Supreme Court on October 27, 2020, a concern across the country was the fate of Roe v. Wade and reproductive rights. States have since drafted and approved restrictive abortion laws.
On May 21, 2022, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill banning abortion from fertilization. The bill has been cited by news sources and media such as the most restrictive ban in the country.
Bans like this only have a negative impact on people. The only people who get abortions are those who want an abortion. It is only up to the pregnant person to decide whether she wants to have a child or not.
Already, Oklahoma is one of the most difficult and traumatic places to raise a child. Banning abortion forces more children to be born in a state that takes less than minimal steps to ensure safety and security.
Abortion bans also negatively impact the very children that these anti-abortion bills seek to protect and safeguard. Girls can start puberty as early as 8 years old. The state now declares that she would be a mother and that her new responsibility, rather than living her own life, is to guarantee the lives of others.
Oklahoma is ranked Number 4 in the country for the teenage birth rate, where 25 out of 1,000 births are to teenage mothers. The state health department teenage birth report for the years 1996-2020 shows that teenage birth rates have a greater impact on Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities.
Oklahoma is one of 29 states in the United States that do not mandate sexual health education and whose regulations on sexual health programs limit programs to abstinence-only education and heteronormative material. However, the Annenberg National Health Communication Survey cites that only 39% of adults find that abstinence education alone is effective.
In conjunction with the new bill through the “Humanity of the Unborn Child Public Education Fund,” abortion is to be taught as the killing of a living human being.
An article outlining sexual health lawsstates, “Oklahoma does not require comprehensive sex education, so a student may not learn about sex and pregnancy, but may learn that abortion will end someone’s life. whole, separate, unique and living human being.”
This knowledge is contrary to medical knowledge. Obstetricians and reproductive health experts know that the idea that an embryo is a “living” person is, to say the least, multidimensional and nuanced.
The article also states, “Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) does not provide sex education to students at any grade level. Administrators decided it was best for students to focus on college preparation and state testing.
Growing up in the Oklahoma City School District, I am aware of the state of state-funded education and the receptivity of students to that education.
Results of state-mandated college readiness exams showed that 56% of students had a “below baseline” score in 2019. I have a distinct memory of sitting in the school computer lab receiving our 2017 test results and gawking at the alarming rate of failures.
Not only do researchers and educators know that standardized tests don’t measure student intelligence or aptitude, but students in the Oklahoma City School District know how ill-prepared we are for these tests.
A psychology today the article states that “standardized tests only measure the absence of weakness. They do not measure the presence of force. Author Cody Kommers repeatedly notes that the sole purpose of a standardized test is to show where a student is falling behind.
The State Legislature and Governor prove time and time again with each incredulous and restrictive bill passed that Oklahoma rests on the shoulders of poorly educated adults who carry on the legacy of failing to provide better for children.
Students in Oklahoma City schools should do their own research into issues related to their growth and development, whether they have enough time outside of school, extracurricular activities, and home life to care of these questions.
The number of negative environmental factors that burden children contribute to their inability to achieve an arbitrary success rate. Oklahoma is ranked third in the nation for mental illness and second in the nation for substance abuse disorders.
Such problems facing the state are systemic. Abortion bans and poor sexual health programs help prevent children becoming adults from rising above the poverty line and overcoming the endless cycle of negative childhood experiences.
Rather than pour more money into the seemingly inadequate state of education and mental health in Oklahoma, the state legislature would rather force more people to have children.
The way to really reduce abortion rates is to increase state spending on education, increase statewide support for mental health and addictions, launch an education adequate and comprehensive on sexual health and many other things.
Call it what it is. “Pro-life” rhetoric is pro-birth, it is ignorant, it is an invasion of privacy, it seriously damages lives.
Harley Woods is a creative writing student at Warren Wilson College and editor of The Echo newspaper. They were born and raised in Oklahoma City.