Family & Community

Ray Carter | September 9, 2022

State officials focus on crisis pregnancies post-Roe

Ray Carter

A newly created state task force will begin work next week on policy recommendations regarding how to support Oklahoma women facing unplanned pregnancies.

With its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that had declared abortion a constitutional right. Under Dobbs, the degree to which abortion is restricted is now left up to the democratic process in each of the 50 states.

As a result, Oklahoma law now generally bans use of abortion as a form of birth control, effectively eliminating most abortions that were performed prior to the Dobbs decision.

But in an executive order issued earlier this year, Gov. Kevin Stitt said it is not enough to reduce abortions in Oklahoma—the state must also do more to support women facing unplanned or crisis pregnancies.

“Being pro-life entails more than being ‘pro-birth,’” Stitt wrote, “it also entails renewing our efforts to support mothers throughout pregnancies, especially crisis pregnancies. While Oklahoma already has a strong network of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, I want to ensure all possible measures are taken to support both the unborn and mothers during crisis pregnancies.” (Emphasis in original.)

The executive order created the 11-member Helping Every Life and Parent Task Force to study, evaluate, and make recommendations regarding policies, programs, and proposed legislation that will support crisis pregnancy centers, make adoption easier, support mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy, and empower nonprofits organizations and local faith communities to support families and mothers before, during, and after childbirth.

The task force’s first meeting will be Tuesday, September 13, 2022.

Stitt announced he has appointed five members: three representatives from nonprofit organizations or local faith communities specializing in pregnancy care and support, a licensed obstetrician-gynecologist, and a representative of the faith community operating a crisis pregnancy center.

His appointees are:

•Juli Merciez, BSN, RN MPC, Co-Founder and President of The Cottage, a pregnancy center and residential maternity home;
•David Lewis, CEO of Go Life Mobile Medical Inc.;
•Dierdre McCool, Executive Vice President at Butterfield Memorial Foundation;
•Dr. Michelle Brunnabend, D.O., licensed OBGYN, owner and physician at Aspen Women’s Center; and
•Gayla White, Director of Hope Pregnancy Ministries.

    Stitt appointed Merciez as chair of the H.E.L.P. Task Force.

    The other members of the task force are:

    •Crystal Coon, designee for Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat;
    •State Rep. Danny Williams, designee for House Speaker Charles McCall;
    •Lori Carter, First Assistant Attorney General, designee for Attorney General John O’Connor;
    •Sandra Puebla, Deputy State Medicaid Director, designee for Secretary of Health and Mental Health Kevin Corbett;
    •Samantha Galloway, interim Director, designee for Secretary of Human Services Justin Brown; and
    •Jackie Shawnee, chief of staff, designee for Commissioner of Health Keith Reed.

    The task force will submit a report of its findings to Stitt on or before Oct. 28.

    Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

    Ray Carter

    Director, Center for Independent Journalism

    Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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