By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Pink Wave is once again headed for the State Capitol on Tuesday, February 17 as the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice (OCRJ), state leaders, citizens and community organizations gather to advocate for “reproductive justice.”
This year’s event themed “Five Years and Still Fighting” is scheduled for Tuesday, February 17 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It will include informational displays, lobbying and speakers calling for what organizers call “improvement in various areas of reproductive justice in Oklahoma.”
The name “Pink Wave” resulted from participants donning pink-hued clothing and banners. The event marks five years since OCRJ was formed in response to numerous bills restricting women’s rights to “bodily autonomy.”
“OCRJ is committed to working for reproductive rights and health, and for a community in which all members can raise their children in safe and healthy circumstances with the opportunity for healthy futures,” said Martha Skeeters, OCRJ President. “It is always wonderful to have representatives of many organizations join us at the capitol to speak out for these goals,” Skeeters added. “We are all in this together.”
Guest speakers will include Rev. Dwight Welch, United Church of Norman; Valarie Lambert, Graduate Student, OU Women’s and Gender Studies; and Keri Parks, Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma.
“I’m joining the Pink Wave because I believe reproductive rights, like LGBT rights, relate to the core of our bodily integrity and the ability to live out our possibilities and life plans,” Rev. Welch said. “That is where I see the Divine operates the most and to have that closed off by legislative fiat is an act of violence that, as a person of faith, I feel obligated to oppose.”
According to OCRJ,, reproductive justice includes the right to have or not to have a child and respect for families in all their forms. The organization supports access to sexual education, contraception, abortion care and pregnancy care as well as to good schools, healthcare and other elements necessary for bright futures.
“I believe policies intended to reduce access to safe and legal abortion in Oklahoma are misguided,” said Marion Homier, OCRJ Vice-President. “Instead, the focus of our legislators should be on ensuring that those who do find themselves in need of abortion services will continue to be able to access them in Oklahoma without undue hardship and without enduring the obstacles, shame, and coercion these bills inflict on those in difficult circumstances.”
The group’s values’ encompass “respect for women, their partners, and families, for sexuality and for gender differences and for human rights and the separation of church and state,” members say.
According to a national report from the Center for Reproductive Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health, Oklahoma ranks 51st — last — for women’s and children’s health and well-being outcomes. “The state legislature needs encouragement to support reproductive justice,” said Skeeters. “This means creating policies that support the responsible planning of families and that give support to all families.”
In a recent report by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Oklahoma ranks #3 in the country in its teen birth rate and 20 percent of the state’s teen births are to teens who are already parents. In addition, 83 percent of births to Oklahoma women under 20 were outside of marriage and 14 percent of Oklahoma high school girls report they were physically forced to have sex.
“I am an Oklahoman, I love my state, however I am not a fan of people chipping away at the rights of women,” said Valarie Lambert, OU Women’s and Gender Studies graduate student. “It is our duty as citizens to be informed about what is going on in our government, and to take a stand when needed.”