Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Senate President Treat: no change in position following BGCO support of abolishing abortion


Last week, "messengers" (basically delegates) to the 2019 Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, the annual denominational meeting for Southern Baptist churches in the Sooner State, overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on the Oklahoma Legislature to "enact legislation for the immediate end of abortion without exception or compromise." 

This was big news on the abortion front, as BGCO staff had publicly opposed a 2019 bill (SB13) by Sen. Joseph Silk (R-Broken Bow) that aimed to abolish abortion entirely.

Other than the BGCO, three men were primarily responsible for Silk's bill being scuttled: Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-OKC), Senate Health and Human Services chairman Jason Smalley (R-Stroud), and Oklahomans For Life president Tony Lauinger.

I emailed each of them for their reaction to the BGCO resolution. So far, I have received a response from only Senator Treat's office. Aaron Cooper, Director of Communications for President Pro Tempore Treat, responded to my inquiry on Senator Treat's behalf.

Q1: Do you have any comment on the BGCO resolution?
Cooper: Senator Treat was not surprised that Oklahoma Baptists took steps to maintain their longstanding commitment to protecting the life of the unborn.

Q2: Do you have anything to add to your previous position on bills like Silk's?
Cooper: Senator Treat has nothing new to add.

Q3: Silk's bill aside, do you intend to push for some other pro-life measure in the 2020 legislative session that would restrict or eliminate abortion in Oklahoma?
Cooper: Like he has nearly every year he’s served in the Legislature, Senator Treat plans to pursue legislation in 2020 to advance protection of the sanctity of life.

Notice that no detail is given, even though Senator Treat authored a bill last session that made no movement after passing the Senate. Originally, it was supposed to be a replacement for Silk's abolition bill -- a trigger that would revert Oklahoma to pre-Roe laws (i.e. abortion being illegal) should the Supreme Court or Congress reverse course -- but then was watered down even further into a state constitutional amendment to "clarif[y that] no provision of the [Oklahoma] Constitution secures or protects a right to perform or receive an abortion." I doubt any effort has been put into coming up with new changes since that time -- "out of sight, out of mind".

Oklahoma's legislature continues to be missing in action on the fight to end abortion. What measures will be allowed to get a vote in 2020? Senator Silk's abolition bill is still eligible for a hearing. Most likely, though, Senate leadership will push some afterthought bill that does nothing except attempt to placate pro-lifers ("we did something") and check a box on the get-elected to-do list.

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