“We’ll defend the rights of preborn children,” said Oklahoma Governor Stitt on Monday February first, as he laid out what he called “The People’s Agenda” for 2021.
If we are going to “defend the rights of preborn children,” then we must understand what those rights are. According to God’s natural law, the Declaration of Independence, and our state and federal constitutions, every human being has the inherent right NOT to be murdered.
On Wednesday morning February third, the Health and Human Services Committee of the Oklahoma Senate heard three bills directly related to murder by abortion. They were:
- SB 495 by Sen. Warren Hamilton, the Equal Protection and Equal Justice Act, failed 10-0
- SB 612 by Sen. Nathan Dahm, a limited abortion ban passed 7-3
- SB 918 by Sen. Pro Tempore Greg Treat, a trigger bill passed 8-3
Are these results good or bad? What do they tell us about the senators who voted and the leadership of the State Senate? What do they tell us about the vitality of the movement to abolish abortion, and where do we go from here? We will attempt to answer these questions as we analyze each of the bills in turn.
When evaluating abortion bills, we begin with the fundamental principle that every human being is made in the image of God. Humans are different from opossums and cockroaches. Because we are all equally human and equally precious to God, we should be valued equally under the law. Following are the key standards we use to measure the effect of an abortion bill:
Equal Protection. The bill should provide equal protection against any and all would-be murderers and conspirators, including parents.
Equal Justice. The bill should allow the punishment to fit the crime. There should be no penalty caps or misdemeanor-like “wrist slaps” for snuffing out innocent lives.
Immediate. The bill should not delay enactment or implement incremental steps. The time for justice is always now.
Jurisdiction. The bill should recognize and act on the fact of the constitutionally preeminent jurisdiction of the state over Washington, D.C. in matters of our civil criminal code.
What does the 10-0 defeat mean? The defeat of the Equal Protection and Equal Justice Act means politics as usual at the state capitol. It means politicians still follow the path of least resistance, choosing the easier alternative over what is right. It means like most other people, politicians follow their leaders, whether good or ill, and leadership clearly did not want this bill to advance. It means going against leadership and the established order could lead to retaliation. While we cannot prove motive, we might conjecture that the vote was related in part to Hamilton’s defeat of former establishment Senator Larry Boggs, who defended the status quo on abortion. Boggs was endorsed and supported by Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat and other Senate leadership. Warren Hamilton is an outspoken abolitionist and the author of this bill. From changed locks to names scraped off doors, retribution and petty in-fighting are stock-in-trade in both sides of the Legislature.
“We have to be bold; we have to be obedient. Keep discipling your senators and representatives. Now is not the time to be quiet.”Oklahoma State Senator Warren Hamilton
Where do we go from here? Bill number SB 495 was voted down, so it is now dead for the remainder of this legislative session. However, it does not mean that abolition is wrong. It does not mean that abolition is unpopular with the people. It does not mean we should let these senators off the hook for their votes. And it certainly does not mean that the ideas of equal protection and equal justice for preborn human beings cannot be pursued or accomplished this year. Senator Hamilton and others will still be pushing for abolition through other bill numbers which can be improved and amended. They will need our support at every turn. As Hamilton said after the vote, “We have to be bold; we have to be obedient. Keep discipling your senators and representatives. Now is not the time to be quiet.”
SB 612 by Sen. Nathan Dahm is a limited abortion ban. It would go into effect immediately upon enactment. It acts upon the authority and jurisdiction of the state. While it bans the performance of most abortions, it does not provide equal protection due to a loophole for self-induced abortions. It also fails to provide equal justice because there is no criminalization of parents, grandparents, friends, boyfriends, and pimps who agitate, coerce, manipulate, or provide funds and material support for abortion. There is also a penalty cap at ten years in prison and/or $100,000 fine, which begs the question, What is the value of a human being?
What does the 7-3 passage mean? A bill like this would not even have gotten a hearing last year. In the interim, we have seen the grassroots scrutiny of compromising pro-life politicians reach unprecedented heights, and we have seen the unseating of an establishment defender of the status quo on abortion. Perhaps these developments have convinced leadership that they must begin to consider some abortion criminalization bills to protect themselves. Perhaps this bill was given a hearing to provide an alternative to Sen. Hamilton’s pure bill of abolition, to provide protection or cover for voting against SB 495. Whatever the reasons, the hearing of both this bill and SB 495 indicates that abolition is advancing, and that is good news.
Where do we go from here? SB 612 passed out of committee, making it eligible to be heard on the Senate floor. However, it will be heard at the whim of Pro Tem Treat. Every senator is at the mercy of the Pro Tem and his appointed leaders. While we await a verdict, we should encourage Senators Hamilton and Dahm to improve SB 612 along its legislative journey so it might ultimately attain to the standards of equal protection and equal justice.
SB 918 by Sen. Greg Treat is a trigger bill that would take effect if the supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) were to overturn its Roe v. Wade opinion. The bill meets none of the criteria for a good bill. It does not provide equal protection or equal justice. It is not immediate, and worse, it surrenders Oklahoma’s civil authority over abortion to SCOTUS.
What does the 7-3 passage mean? First, the bill itself indicates that Sen. Treat, the leader of the State Senate, likely does not understand or value state sovereignty. Rather than fight for our state sovereignty, or challenge Washington, he throws it away with this bill. Second, we learn that committee members feel they must vote with the leader of the Senate. We cannot ascertain whether or not they actually favored the provisions of the bill, since after all, the same senators also voted in favor of SB 612, which is logically contradictory to the presuppositions of SB 918.
Where do we go from here? This bill should be opposed every time it comes up for a vote. Since Treat is the leader of the Senate, no one is likely to oppose him when it hits the Senate floor. Regardless, we can still encourage our senators to vote no, and we can ask our representatives in the House to vote no if it is passed by the Senate.
Finally, what does Governor Stitt think about abolishing abortion? Aside from the seven words uttered in his State of the State speech Monday, what is his strategic plan and vision regarding abortion? Where is his leadership asking for specific legislation in the same way he asks for tax reform, regulatory reform, and education reform? Does the governor want to continue regulating murder by abortion as healthcare, or does he want to criminalize it? He should let us know. Governor Stitt’s leadership could make all the difference in these games being played at the Legislature.