Although the topic of reproductive rights came up across the national political scene and appeared to take center stage in Oklahoma by way of the proposed personhood bill, there was much more that happened at the state Capitol worth sharing.
For one, House Bill 2396, co-authored by Rep. Wade Rousselot, D-Wagoner, and Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, represents a big step toward providing safety for domestic abuse victims.
Rousselot and David went to the mat on the issue and were able to see it passed through both the House and the Senate on the last day of session. Signed by Gov. Mary Fallin on May 30, the new law extends the validity of protective orders and authorizes a continuous order of protection in certain cases.
An additional measure signed into law by the governor, HB 3052, will go far toward reducing violent crime as well as reducing Oklahomas high rate of incarceration. Similarly, HB 2518 was signed into law to strengthen the states human trafficking laws and to better protect youth from this insidious crime.
Lawmakers also listened when women spoke out against Senate Bill 1059, which would have eliminated payment by out-of-state insurance companies for certain preventative tests such as mammograms, pelvic exams, prostate exams and childrens immunizations.
There are many other issues important to women that still need to be heard, including those surrounding access to education and health care, as well as economic concerns. Unfortunately, this past session did not result in any significant education reforms.
And, in general, Oklahoma still ranks as the second-worst state in the nation for women. That needs to change.
Among our laundry list of sad statistics lies the fact that we remain the state with the highest female incarceration rate in the nation, not to mention among developed countries worldwide. We may have missed opportunities to address some of these statistics, but we are making progress.
Looking back over the past few months, it is apparent that Oklahoma women are making strides toward being heard on important public policy issues and have the ear of our lawmakers. The Oklahoma Womens Coalition applauds those who recognize the dismal status of women in our state. We had a clear, strong voice at the Capitol this session.
HB 2396 and HB 3052 are examples of successful legislation that will make a positive impact on many families lives. Although we still have challenges ahead of us and horrible statistics to overcome, our voices are being heard.
Davis is executive director of Oklahoma Womens Coalition.
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