The darkness to come
The future of abortion rights in Oklahoma
There was a moment early in the 57th Oklahoma State Legislative Session where it looked like we were headed for a four-month wingnut jubilee.
Introduced by Majority Leader Jon Echols, (R-Oklahoma City), the bill allows anyone who is not a felon, adjudicated as mentally defective, or who has had a conviction for a crime involving domestic violence, to carry a gun without a license in Oklahoma.
(U.S. Law Shield)
What made this maddening—as if making it easier to own a Glock than an iPhone in Oklahoma isn’t maddening enough, as if state legislators not being the slightest bit embarrassed about lying supine with arms flailing about in front of the gun lobby isn’t maddening enough—was that the bill was signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt on Feb. 27. Why is the date important? Because the opening day of the session was Feb. 4—about three weeks prior.
Nothing makes its way through state government in three weeks. A bill making ribeye the official state steak took longer than that. This “constitutional carry” bill (and the term, itself, which means as much as Corinthian leather) was like the one Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed in 2018. She did so because it was redundant, hated by businesses and chambers of commerce, and designed only to feed a gluttonous, spoiled gun lobby that will not rest until 6-week-old fetuses are armed and women are once again wearing hooded cloaks.
I’m only barely exaggerating.
Senate Bill 13, dubbed the “Abolition of Abortion in Oklahoma Act,” would make abortion a homicide effective Nov. 1 and punishable by up to life in prison.
That beauty was introduced this past session by state Sen. Joseph Silk (R-Broken Bow), who contends Oklahoma can ignore federal law.
It says any federal laws, regulations, executive orders or court decisions that deprive an unborn child the right to life are void. (Tulsa World)
So horrendous was the bill, even a group of Baptists thought it had cooties:
Credible expert legal/policy analysis indicates SB 13 will be invalidated immediately by the courts, if it passes at all, and we cannot save lives with legislation that never goes into effect. SB 13, as proposed, unnecessarily and purposely repeals hard-earned pro-life laws that have helped significantly reduce Oklahoma’s abortion rate. (The Baptist Messenger)
When the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma—which signed the letter For Christ, for life—thinks your bill is an unwelcome, unlawful mess, it’s time to dial back your douchebaggery.
The Baptists weren’t the only ones who thought so.
“I support the bill’s author and I support his cause,” [Sen.] Jason Smalley said. “I just don’t support his methods.” (The Oklahoman)
Fantastic. An awful bill doesn’t advance, not because its awful, but because those who usually support such awfulness were unhappy with how awfully it was rolled out.
Legislatively, the show more or less returned to normal after those two bills—as good friend of the column and outgoing director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, David Blatt, reminds us—even if the whole 2019 production was a bit of a downer.
“Low-income working Oklahomans were once again forgotten this session … In a year where there was plenty of money to expand business incentive programs like the Quick Action Closing Fund and to allocate enormous increases for the governor’s office and the Legislature, there was no excuse for turning a deaf ear to those struggling to get by and get ahead.” (Shawnee News-Star)
As unsatisfying as the session was—from the failure to pass bail reform, to expand health coverage to more than 100,000 Oklahomans, to fully reinstate the Earned Income Tax Credit, to raise the minimum wage or extend paid leave, to the paltry increases in education that will still leave public schools almost $100 million below what they were in 2008, even though enrollment has grown by over 50,000 students—it could have been worse, especially for women.
Next session, it will be.
Missouri passed a bill on Friday to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, making the state the eighth this year to pass abortion restrictions that could challenge the constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade. (New York Times)
Bills in Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Utah, Louisiana (led by Democrats) and Ohio were similarly passed, and I’ll make you the Toby Ziegler bet (“All the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets”) that the Oklahoma Legislature, in 2020, will once again take its rightful place in the pantheon of states wishing to return women to the 14th century.
The punchlines of years past in Oklahoma will now be the policy makers.
In 2017, GOP Rep. George Fought believed women who are raped should marvel at God’s mysterious ways.
“And, obviously if it happens in someone’s life, it may not be the best thing that ever happened, but—so you’re saying that God is not sovereign with every activity that happens in someone’s life and can’t use anything and everything in someone’s life and I disagree with that.” (Raw Story)
May not be the best thing—so, c’mon gals, buck up. The almighty has a plan to turn the lemon of rape into a lifetime of lemonade.
Also in 2017, Rep. Justin Humphrey reminded women they are just incubators anyway.
“I understand that they feel like that is their body,” he said of women. “I feel like it is a separate—what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ And you know when you enter into a relationship you’re going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don’t get pregnant.” (The Intercept)
And the hits kept coming.
The measure, dubbed the “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2017,” would prevent the abortion of a fetus solely on the basis that it had a genetic abnormality. It makes no exceptions for rape or incest. (Tulsa World)
That was from Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) whose bill, if approved, would have required a woman carrying an Anencephalic fetus (one born unconscious, blind, deaf, and probably already dead; Anencephaly literally means “open skull”) to bring it to term, thus making her body a coffin.
Humphrey, Fought, Silk and Dahm are sanctimonious blowhards, but they’re now in the luxury boxes of a national party that proposes abortion legislation that would force 11-year-old rape victims to give birth to their rapists’ babies. So horrendous are these bills that the always-horrendous Tomi Lahren and Pat Robertson oppose them.
Presently, Oklahoma abortion laws, while not as abominable as Alabama’s, are pretty dismal.
A woman must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion, and then wait 72 hours before the procedure is provided. (Guttmacher Institute)
Ply a woman with slick disinformation and then make her wait three days before allowing her to decide what to do with her body? If that sounds belittling, that’s the point. This isn’t even about the unborn—it’s about control over women.
And it’s going to get worse.
It used to be that even the most ardent anti-abortionist agreed to an exception in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother because to think otherwise would make you a monster.
The GOP didn’t change on this issue—it mutated.
Here’s Marco Rubio during a 2015 presidential debate defending his position on abortion.
“You don’t favor a rape and incest exception?” [Megyn] Kelly asked.
“I have never said that. And I have never advocated that,” Rubio said.
Kelly gave him the chance to take a humane position … and he was proud he hadn’t?
The GOP, nationally, is now passing legislation sponsored by doltish, ignorant representatives based on doltish ignorance.
Chambliss then argued that his bill required no rape or incest exception because under the new law a woman could still get an abortion as long as she didn’t know she was pregnant. “If we pass this bill, my hope is that all ladies will be educated by their parents or guardians that should a situation like this occur, you need to go get help immediately so they could get the physical help they need. If they wait, justice delayed is justice denied.” (Slate)
He has hope for you, ladies. Relieved?
Such patronizing misogyny has always been alive in the catacombs of GOP thought in Oklahoma, but it’s now being coaxed out of the basement and invited to the front yard.
By 2020, it’ll be a block party.
Under Senate Bill 614 introduced by state Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, doctors performing medically induced abortions will be required to inform women the process may be reversed after they ingest the first of two abortion-inducing pills. (The Oklahoman)
It is a “procedure” that has as much credibility as gay conversion therapy and one with which everyone who doesn’t have an “R-” after his or her name dismisses.
Not only is “abortion reversal” scientifically unproven, it is not FDA-approved and possibly dangerous. (The Daily Beast)
The only women in America who will be allowed to get abortions in the coming years are those sleeping with and getting pregnant by GOP representatives.
Gov. Stitt signed SB 614 into law.
As many of you know, David Blatt is leaving Oklahoma Policy Institute and will no longer be covering the legislature and, thus, no longer ripping out with his bare hands what little hair he has left. I owe David a great deal, for I would have simply been unable to write about state politics these past few years without him. He is the smartest person I know and has been a mentor, a dear friend, and one who, when I bollix one of these columns, leaves me messages telling me so. Folk Singer Pete Seeger talked about the good people in your life, the ones with the “live hearts, live eyes and live minds” that keep you going.