Many Oklahoman Pro-lifers are very excited by SB 15521 being passed and sent on to the Governor’s Office. News headlines read “Oklahoma Passes Bill Effectively Banning Abortion” and “Oklahoma Lawmakers Pass Bill That Makes Performing An Abortion A Felony”. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Many will think so. I’m not so sure. I WILL say that the version of this bill that was passed by the Oklahoma State Senate in March was absolutely worthless, but it has changed since then, and changed for the better. But there are still some very serious problems with SB 1552 that we need to be aware of. The type of problems that the politicians supporting this bill and the press will not talk about.
SB 1552 went through numerous changes, some big and some small. When the bill was voted on in the OK Senate, I was in the gallery watching the brief debate. At that time, the bill had an amendment proposal connected with it (authored by the author of the bill) to include the language “to preserve the life or health of the mother” with “health” defined as “physical or mental health”. This means that the only thing between the life of the unborn and a brutal death is a check of a box on a piece of paper. Physical and mental health is extremely subjective and leaving this kind of exception in the language nullifies any value this bill may have. After the passing of SB 1552 in the Senate, this led me to write “Bill 1552 will not do a thing. It is the epitome of ineffective and worthless pro-life rhetoric.” At that point it truly was worthless. I recall Democrat Senator Sparks commenting on the Senate Floor that SB 1552 was nothing but political grandstanding and a waste of time and money. At that point, while the bill included the mile wide “health of the mother” exception, the Oklahoma Democrat was absolutely right. I could not have said it better myself. But SB 1552 has gone through some important changes, as bills often do. Is it still as worthless?
The final version of SB 1552 that has been sent to Governor Fallin’s office no longer has the “health of the mother” exception. But it does retain the “life of the mother” exception. This kind of exception2 is easily abused and worked around. There are a number of medical conditions that could hypothetically be dangerous that will be lumped in as a “life of the mother” issue, while in reality close supervision of the pregnancy would suffice. Viewing it as a licensing issue and having that exception fails to view the unborn as a patient of value, but rather as a discardable obstacle. Because of this, many medical situations can be and will be seen as threatening to the life of the mother that otherwise would not be seen as truly and seriously threatening. In addition, there is no need for a specific exception for the life of the mother because it is already standard medical practice to attempt to save both lives if possible, and one if not possible. Without the “life of mother exception”, a true life of mother situation becomes a matter of trying their best to save both lives, not a matter of minimizing any potential risks.
How does SB 1552 attempt to ban abortion? Essentially this bill adds abortion to a list of actions that will result in the removal of the medical license of said medical practitioner. Needless to say, this is not justice and does not treat abortion like murder. This bill would add the butchering of the unborn to a list along with actions such as advertising improperly or not keeping accurate medical records. The penalty for procuring an abortion has a maximum of three years. In order to abolish abortion and to establish justice for the unborn, we must define abortion as murder, not treat it like healthcare to be regulated. Abortion is murder, and to not treat it like murder is to not treat it as sin. Not treating abortion as sin is hate to the sinner3.
There is also the question of whether or not the bill will be effective in protecting all the unborn, or just the unborn too large to kill with pills. SB 1552 sites Section 1-730 Article 634 for its definition of abortion. Surprisingly, the standing statute does not do a bad job. It defines abortion as,
” the use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug, or any other substance or device intentionally to terminate the pregnancy of a female known to be pregnant…”
But the current regulations on abortion also have this interesting statement directly following the definitions.
“Nothing contained herein shall be construed in any manner to include any birth control device or medication or sterilization procedure.”
“Herein” pertaining to the aforementioned definition of abortion and other definitions.
To break it down, Oklahoma law defines abortion rightly by listing the use of drugs or devices, and then backtracks and allows a broad sweeping exception for any and all abortifacient birth control methods. That is unacceptable, especially since the current trend is a drastic increase in abortifacient birth control and emergency contraceptives5. This is why the Abolitionist bill (SB 1118)6 had new definitions as part of its language.
In addition to those problems, SB 1552 fails to strike pre existing language that protects abortion during the first trimester. Section 1-731 Part C states that,
“No person shall perform or induce an abortion upon a pregnant woman subsequent to the end of the first trimester of her pregnancy, unless such abortion is performed or induced in a general hospital.”
Even more outrageous than implicitly allowing first trimester abortions, in the same sentence it allows for abortions past the first trimester as long as the abortions take place in a hospital. The authors of the bill and other supporting politicians insist that this line of law “doesn’t matter”, but when asked why they don’t simply strike the language, they do not have an answer. I do not know what to make of this language remaining law, but something does not add up. Even if all intentions are good, this is exactly the sort of legal loophole that can be take advantage of by abortionists and their high power attorneys. Keeping Section 1-731 Part C could nullify any effectiveness this bill could have had. Why not strike the language?
To be clear, I DO think you should lose any kind of license (private or public licensing) you may have if you perform an abortion. But because abortion is murder, NOT because it’s on a list of medical practice regulations. There is certainly nothing wrong with taking licenses away from murderers. A law treating abortion as murder, as opposed to regulating abortion, would effectively do what SB 1552 is attempting to do.
This bill WILL be challenged. That is expected. The problem is that I don’t think anyone will seriously fight for a state nullification path on this bill, precisely because it has to do with licensing regulations, not calling murder what it is. If Fallin signs it, and I’m not at all sure that she will, then the legal battle will be over whether the state’s right to regulate their own medical practices outweighs the woman’s right of privacy and 14th amendment rights (Roe v Wade). It’s a clear loss. A much better fight would be if the US Federal Government has the right to give blanket immunity to certain kinds of murders. That is a fight that a state may get behind. Either way, the Oklahoma Attorney General and the Governor would need to stand up to the Oklahoma Supreme Court and simply reject their decision. That is something that I don’t believe will happen with our current Governor, and especially with a bill with such little teeth. Moreover, although this bill does indirectly defy Roe vs Wade, it does so in a fashion that does not secure equal rights for the unborn. In trying to work around Roe vs Wade, as opposed to directly defying Roe vs Wade, SB 1552 fails to establish the inherent worth of the unborn and fails to secure the equal protection of the law for the unborn human being. In this way SB 1552 and Oklahoma ProLife politicians are in agreement with Roe vs Wade. Both Roe vs Wade and Senate Bill 1552 deny the Image of God in the unborn. This is not something to be taken lightly.
“Republicans don’t have an answer for their failed education policies, failing health care policies and failing fiscal policies, so what do you do in that situation? You come up with an emotional distraction. That’s what this bill is.” Democrat Senator John Sparks
Is Senator Sparks still right? To be sure, this bill is not as obviously worthless as it was in March, but even now I am afraid that it is not something I can get excited about. It includes an exception loophole that is unnecessary and will be abused, even assuming that it would be effective in abolishing abortion its methodology treats abortion as healthcare, and it does nothing to correct unclear and contradictory language that allows non-surgical abortion methods to remain legal. What is clear is that this is no Bill of Abolition. This is a regulatory bill that does away with some of the most egregious pro-life pitfalls, but sadly holds fast to a number of different pitfalls. At this time it is important to note that this bill was the same bill that was supported in opposition to a true Bill of Abolition. The now dead SB 1118 treated abortion as murder, corrected problematic loophole definitions, and did not include any exceptions. Many Senators opposed SB 1118 and used their support of the impotent SB 1552 as their justification for denying abolition. This should serve as an important lesson to us. No matter what the Internet says or what politicians say, not all that glitters is gold. This is a gilded bill that masquerades as a Bill of Abolition.
Despite all my serious and genuine concerns, I still pray that SB 1552 can somehow be used to save lives, establish justice, and honor God. However, it is with a heavy heart that I tell you that given the language of the bill and the history of Oklahoma politicians, I have little faith in this bill to do any such thing. Oklahomans, and Christians everywhere, must courageously stand for abolition, not the cheap knockoffs that very well may only be an emotional distraction and political grandstanding.
UPDATE: Since writing this blog, prolife Governor Mary Fallin has vetoed this prolife bill. I decided to write a follow up on the Governors reasons for vetoing SB 1552 and that can be found here.
1. The final text of Oklahoma Senate Bill 1552 can be found here. Relevant changes to preexisting statutes are underlined.
2. More about the “life of the mother” exception can be found here.
3. More on the importance of viewing abortion as sin can be found here.
4. The text of the definition cited in SB 1552 can be found here.