Friday, May 17, 2019

Missing In Action: the Oklahoma Legislature and the fight for Life

Legislation on abortion has topped the national news this year. Blue states like New York and Vermont have swung heavily toward expanding infanticide (even to infants post-birth, as voiced by Virginia's governor), while some red states are changing tactics to more intense assaults on Roe v. Wade.

In the last two months, seven states have passed legislation that would dramatically restrict abortion. In recent weeks, movement on these pro-life bills has accelerated.

  • May 15th - Alabama: near-total abortion ban signed by Governor
  • May 15th - Louisiana: heartbeat bill (6-week) authored by Democrat passes House, Democrat Governor indicated he will sign if passed.
  • May 15th - Missouri: heartbeat (8-week) and trigger bill passed Senate. Final House vote expected tomorrow.
  • May 7th - Georgia: heartbeat (6-week) bill signed by Governor.
  • April 11th - Ohio: heartbeat (6-week) bill signed by Governor.
  • March 21st - Mississippi: heartbeat (6-week) bill signed by Governor.
  • March 15th - Kentucky: heartbeat (6-week) bill signed by Governor.

Where is Oklahoma in this fight?

We have a Governor on the record pledging to sign any pro-life bill sent to his desk. We have a supermajority of legislators in both houses who claim to be pro-life.

And yet, where is the fruit? The pieces are present, but why haven't they been assembled?

When it comes to significantly advancing the rights of the preborn this year, the Oklahoma Legislature is MIA - Missing In Action.

Rose Day after Rose Day, Oklahoma legislators line up for a group photo, proclaiming their allegiance to the pro-life cause, and touting their dedication (and their 100% rating) to defending Life. Yet, behind the scenes, many in leadership kowtow to corporate and media interests who despise the pro-life cause and claim that such policies would bring economic disaster to Oklahoma.

Earlier this year, a bill was filed to take a lead among the states and abolish abortion in Oklahoma. Senate President Greg Treat and Senate Health Committee Chairman Jason Smalley refused to allow the measure to even get a discussion in committee. Citing quibbles with the wording, they rejected allowing the bill to go through the legislative process whereby differences in legislation are worked out.

Then, to some fanfare, Sen. Treat revealed the "new strategy", his answer to Silk's SB13 that was not going to be allowed to be heard. The new bill, an effort to appease pro-lifers upset by the shelving of SB13, was a "trigger bill", which would only go into effect if Roe v. Wade gets overturned or Congress passes a constitutional amendment returning abortion law to the states.

But wait! There's more!

When Treat's bill hit the Senate floor, he changed it again (this time without the proclamations that accompanied the initial unveiling). Now, his SB195 sends to a vote of the people a constitutional amendment to "clarif[y that] no provision of the [Oklahoma] Constitution secures or protects a right to perform or receive an abortion". Since passing the Senate, that measure has received no action in the House, no public promptings for passage by the authoring Senate President, no attention whatsoever.

This year, legislative leadership has absolutely zero priority for advancing action on behalf of the preborn. However, they did find it important enough to pass a bill designating the ribeye as the state steak. It's a sad day when a steak takes precedence over preventing the death of thousands of babies every year. 

Oklahoma had a chance to lead the nation in advocating for Life this year. Pro-life Republicans control the House of Representatives, the Senate, and a pro-life Republican sits in the office of Governor. Even after SB13 was shelved, it was still possible for another measure of import to be proposed and advanced. If it was truly a priority for legislative leadership, they could have made it happen. Instead, pro-lifers and the pro-life cause are an afterthought, only considered when an election is on the line.

While states like Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri take the forefront in the battle for the preborn, Oklahoma's place in the ranks is empty. The lack of significant action speaks to the lack of priority.

The Oklahoma Legislature is Missing In Action in the fight for Life in 2019.


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