On Wednesday the Oklahoma State Senate tabled a motion to bring Senate Bill 13 — the Abolition of Abortion in Oklahoma Act — to the Senate floor. By a 38-4 vote, this act of cowardice shelved the bill for the rest of the legislative session and ensures that it will not be heard.
SB 13 was different from many of the incremental, nibble-around-the-edges pro-life bills passed by the Republicans over the last decade in that it was designed to have Oklahoma completely and decisively abolish abortion regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized the practice. Under the proposed legislation, Oklahoma would ignore that court ruling and defy the Supreme Court when they invariably interfered. The vast majority of senators said this is not something they were willing to do.
According to the bill’s author, Joseph Silk, “SB 13 is the only bill in the state right now that would actually provide equal protection to all unborn children.”
This action by the senate was a crushing blow for advocates who have been relentlessly seeking to have it heard over the last two years. In February, several thousand supporters showed up to the State Capitol for the Abolition Day Rally, an event designed to promote the bill and to demand its passage. On top of large crowds and sheer numbers of people who attended, the even was also notable for the speakers and ministries that participated; Free the States, AHA, Babies are Murdered Here, Operation Save America and Apologia Church’s End Abortion Now, and others- organizations that have historically been at odds with each other but which have reportedly reconciled and made peace for the sake of the mission.
Apart from the guests, the bill was supported by over 100 pastors from around the State who signed and delivered petitions calling for a fair hearing of SB13, as well as by the Oklahoma Baptists, Oklahoma Free Will Baptists, and Oklahoma Republican Party, all whom passed resolutions demanding SB13.
What is especially disheartening about the bill being tabled is the incongruity of it all. According to “Americans United for Life’s” 2016 annual “Life List” that ranks the most pro-life and pro-abortion states in the country, Oklahoma ranks #1.
In fact, Republicans have a supermajority in both the House and Senate in Oklahoma. Of the 48 seats in the state senate, 39 are held by Republicans and 9 by Democrats, meaning that over 80% of the senators are Republicans.
Furthermore, Oklahoma has a professing Republican pro-life Governor, a Republican pro-life Lieutenant Governor, a Republican pro-life President Pro Tem of the Senate, and a Republican pro-life majority floor leader. The vast majority of these senators campaigned as “pro-life” and vowed to do all they can to “protect life” in Oklahoma, with many promising to vote for the bill if the opportunity presented itself. Almost all attend Church and a couple of senators are even pastors.
While the Oklahoma Senate declined to hear SB 13, they instead passed Senate Bill 1859. Sponsored by Senator Paul Scott, it would direct abortion providers to check for brain waves and a heartbeat before they murder the baby. If they were to perform an abortion even after seeing brain waves or the heartbeat, such an action would be deemed “unprofessional conduct,” and it would result in the removal of the medical license of that abortionist.
Even though they passed this bill, Senate Republicans have no expectation that this will ever substantially materialize or go into effect. It is fully expected that it will be struck down by the courts, with its existence serving the purpose of being a pretty feather in their hat they can point to when it comes time to fundraise and say “I did this thing” even though they fully know it’s dead in the water.
The most pro-life state in America has supermajorities of professing pro-lifers who have no desire to pass a bill that will protect and stop the slaughter of the unborn. Given the power the Republicans possess, neither Democrats, nor the ACLU, nor secular humanists, nor atheists, nor pro-choice lobbyists could have stopped them if these pro-life politicians had the testicular fortitude to defy the Supreme Court.
But they are unwilling to do so.
Or rather, it’s not that they are unwilling, but instead, they are unwilling over THIS issue. While SB 13 failed to gain traction, Senate Bill 1018 curiously passed the next day. Sponsored by Nathan Dahm, the bill is designed to nullify any red flag laws passed by the government. (Red flag laws being the notion that the government can take your guns without going through due process.) In this case, this preening display of their hypocrisy was made manifest when every single Republican senator voted in favor of this bill to nullify federal gun laws, the day after they said they couldn’t for federal abortion laws.
Due to only four senators voting to have the bill heard (Sen. Joseph Silk, Sen. Chris Kidd, Sen. Nathan Dahm and Sen. Roland Pederson), supporters of SB 13 said the rest of the senators have a target on their backs and abolitionists will run primary challengers against as many senators who “voted ‘no’ as we can.”
“We will be campaigning against them,” said lobbyist Russell Hunter of Free the States, “We will be attempting to replace each and every legislator that said they will not hear Senate Bill 13.”