A task force report commissioned by Gov. Kevin Stitt after he signed a series of anti-abortion bills into law is drawing fire.
The report, issued Wednesday by the governor’s Helping Every Life and Parent Task Force, offered a series of recommendations, from increasing Medicaid coverage for mothers to using the internet to promote “the Oklahoma life and parenting brand.”
The recommendations come from an 11-member panel Stitt created by executive order in July after he signed legislation that banned abortions in the state in most circumstances.
“I am impressed and grateful for the HELP Task Force’s dedication and execution of their responsibility to deliver thoughtful recommendations to support Oklahoma families and women before, during, and after childbirth,” Stitt said in a media release Wednesday.
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But some of the recommendations are being criticized by an area Planned Parenthood chapter and physicians.
A Planned Parenthood Great Plains official knocked the report for its emphasis on building the state’s brand.
“When you remove a person’s fundamental right to access abortion care and your first solution is to use state resources to ‘brand better,’ then it’s clear you’re the one with an image problem,” said Emily Wales, Planned Parenthood Great Plains president and chief executive officer.
“These recommendations affirm what we know to be true: People will continue to seek abortion care even when politicians put incredible barriers in their path,” Wales said.
Branding and marketing is the first recommendation listed in the task force’s 266-page report.
“It is the recommendation of the H.E.L.P. Task Force to create an Oklahoma life and parenting brand with a landing page from an Oklahoma website that compiles life and parenting resources, initiatives, programs, assistance and educational information to fulfill task force objectives, with the request for funding from Legislature, if needed,” the report states.
The task force also recommended:
Establishment of a statewide cooperative network and process for the availability of the “Abortion Pill Reversal,” in conjunction with area hospitals, clinics and pregnancy centers. Abortion pill reversal is a controversial use of progesterone to counter the effects of medication abortion. Opponents say the treatment is not supported by scientific evidence.
Exploration of a tax credit, similar to one in Missouri, for donations to certified pregnancy help centers.
Expansion of funding through the Choosing Childbirth Act, which supports organizations offering adoption, counseling and other social services programs for pregnant women.
Elimination of “unnecessary barriers” to adoption to make Oklahoma the most “adoption-friendly” state in the nation.
Expansion of health services for women in all areas of the state, noting that some areas are considered “maternity deserts.”
Expansion of SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s version of Medicaid, by raising the federal poverty level for income eligibility for pregnancy and postpartum coverage from 138% of the federal poverty level to 205% of the federal poverty level.
Extension of postpartum coverage for SoonerCare recipients from 60 days to 12 months.
Regarding the so-called abortion pill reversal, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes the treatment.
“Claims regarding abortion ‘reversal’ treatment are not based on science and do not meet clinical standards,” the organization states on its website. “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists ranks its recommendations on the strength of the evidence and does not support prescribing progesterone to stop a medication abortion.”
While the group declined to comment to the Tulsa World on the HELP report, one member of the group did.
“Claims that progesterone may be used for abortion ‘reversal’ are not based on science, do not meet clinical standards, and are dangerous,” said Dr. Kristyn Brandi, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Darney-Landy fellow. “There have not been successful clinical trials of this treatment, and in fact one trial was stopped early due to serious hemorrhaging experienced by trial participants.
“ACOG does not support prescribing progesterone to stop a medication abortion. Unproven treatments interfere with patient safety and put the lives of pregnant people at risk. The recommendation of Oklahoma’s HELP Task Force to pursue a statewide effort to provide this unfounded abortion ‘reversal’ treatment will endanger pregnant people and force doctors to lie to their patients.”
The task force also recommended:
The Legislature should adopt national best practices and allow certified nurse-midwives to “practice at the top of their education and training.”
Considering a woman “at the point of a positive pregnancy test” to have a dependent and be eligible for federal financial assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
The Legislature should amend state law to permit a TANF applicant with a positive drug test to qualify for the program provided they complete a substance abuse treatment plan and allow those treatment hours to count toward work activity requirements.
The Legislature should amend the Oklahoma Safe Haven Law to increase the number of days to relinquish a child without prosecution for child abandonment or child neglect from 30 days of age or younger to 60 days of age or younger.
The state should support the expansion of programs designed to promote fatherhood.
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