Analysis: Under the dome, Oklahoma state Legislature maintains pro-life path
Published: June 13th, 2019
OKLAHOMA CITY – In the recent session of the state Legislature, limitations on abortion access reflected the leadership’s successful advance for an incremental path. The Legislature pursued this path, in a careful, methodical pushback against judicial rulings which have struck down bolder measures to limit abortion.
In a national context, beginning last winter some states enacted new laws allowing abortion throughout pregnancy. A New York law, which went into effect in January with the signature of Governor Andrew Cuomo, expanded abortion access into the third trimester.
The law’s final enactment was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that pulled abortion policy-making into the judiciary and away from legislative scrutiny in the states.
The measure in the Empire State provoked debate, including over a provision critics assert would decriminalize assaults that result in the death of an unborn child in the latter months of pregnancy. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46994583)
This provoked an intense reaction among pro-life organizations, leading to the enactment of measures limiting abortion in a few states, including “heartbeat” measures to end or limit abortion access once an unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected.
One such measure passed in the Louisiana Legislature and was signed into law by Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (https://patriotpost.us/articles/63353-the-true-life-story-hollywood-wont-tell?fbclid=IwAR3-5AtX0aoActnBIEzewVP6fgkn_2Z6XxgQn3oYlErQmY1uTBNeec6QjMU). Edwards (no known relation to former Gov. Edwin Edwards) become chief executive of the Pelican State in 2016.
Here in the Sooner State, among the notable measures that passed in the Oklahoma Legislature was House Bill 2592, which was incorporated into the state budget which new Governor Kevin Stitt signed.
The “Choosing Childbirth Program,” enacts a $2 million appropriation to support pregnancy centers. Tony Lauinger of Oklahomans for Life characterized the new law as providing “much-needed funds to pro-life pregnancy resource centers which help vulnerable women during their pregnancies and after their babies are born.”
The program is designed to help the centers finance “ultrasounds, medical exams, counseling, parenting classes, maternity care,” and other efforts,” Lauinger said in an release sent to CapitolBeatOK, “without interfering in any privately-funded, faith-based activities of the pregnancy centers.”
Lauinger said the centers “are on the front lines of the pro-life movement, providing crucial help to expectant mothers and saving their babies from abortion.”
Lauinger, in his communication, listed other three provisions in state law he considers pro-life, including one aiming to end sub rosa assisted suicide.
He characterized the statues with these words:
“Senate Bill 614 provides that an abortion patient be given information about the possibility of reversing the intended effects of a medication (chemical) abortion. Medical science has developed a method for reversing the effects of a medication abortion and saving an unborn child’s life when only the first drug in the two-step process of a medication abortion has been ingested by the mother. Hundreds of babies lives have been saved by this method when a mother has changed her mind about continuing the abortion procedure.
“House Bill 2591 prohibits the state from granting Medicaid funding to any health-care provider that has failed to report statutory rape as required by mandatory child-abuse reporting laws. Child molesters who impregnate their minor victims sometimes use abortion as a means of covering up the evidence of their crimes. Abortionists frequently perform abortions on minor girls, without parents’ knowledge, when a statutory rapist brings the girl to an abortion facility and pays for the abortion.
“S.B. 108 protects against assisted suicide by ensuring accuracy in reporting the cause of death on death certificates. Promoters of legalizing assisted suicide, seeking to conceal the growing harm and pressure that such utilitarian laws inflict on the vulnerable, the elderly, the depressed, and persons with disabilities, are encouraging those participating in assisted suicide to cover up what is actually occurring by reporting an underlying illness, instead of suicide, to hide the true cause of death in such cases.
“Causing the sick and vulnerable to feel that their lives are not worthy, or that they are a burden, sends the not-so-subtle message that — as former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm once infamously put it — they have a “duty to die and get out of the way.” A prerequisite for preventing the lethal practice of assisted suicide from gaining a foothold in Oklahoma is honest reporting of the actual cause of death so the perpetrators cannot hide what they have done.”
One or more of the new provisions in Oklahoma state law are likely to face judicial scrutiny – just as some expansions of access to abortion are undergoing in other states.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to take up the most significant implications of a lower court ruling in an Indiana case.
As sketched by Adal Lipta, in a New York Times report, “the justices turned down an appeal that asked the court to reinstate a state law banning abortions sought solely because of the sex or disability of a fetus. But the court upheld part of the same law requiring abortion providers to bury or cremate fetal remains.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/28/us/politics/supreme-court-abortion-indiana.html )
Although the High Court justices commented briefly on the case in their late May “non-decision” on most aspects of the Hoosier State statute, there were no recorded votes.
Given the presence of new-Justice Brett Kavanaugh (who last year replaced Anthony Kennedy), observers had speculated the justices might use the Indiana case to grapple with the precedent in Roe v. Wade, the still-controversial 197? precedent that expanded access to abortion beyond the previously existing provisions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court avoided review of the underlying precedent.
However, Justice Clarence Thomas seemed to predict the justices will be dealing with abortion policy in more substantive ways in the years ahead.
Thomas wrote: “Given the potential for abortion to become a tool of eugenic manipulation, the court will soon need to confront the constitutionality of laws like Indiana’s. So long as the Supreme Court forces a policy of unfettered elective abortion on the entire country, it ought to at least allow for states to protect babies from unjust discrimination. … Having created the constitutional right to an abortion, this court is duty bound to address its scope.”