Last week, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a wildly unconstitutional bill, SB 1552, which effectively bans abortion in the state. It now goes back to the state senate for final approval and then to the desk of Gov. Mary Fallin (R). The law categorizes all abortions not performed in order to save the pregnant person’s life as “unprofessional conduct,” akin to writing fake prescriptions, habitual drug or alcohol use, aiding or abetting a criminal operation, or “engaging in physical conduct with a patient which is sexual in nature.” A physician who provided abortions could have their medical license suspended or revoked.
The comparison is absurd. On the one hand, you have providing a legal health-care service, and on the other you have actual unethical behavior like getting drunk on the job and playing grab-ass with your patients.
See the similarities?
I don’t either.
It’s unlikely that Oklahoma politicians actually think performing an abortion is akin to the knocking of boots between patient and physician. Rather, Oklahoman legislators, like anti-choice politicians across the country, are hell-bent on eliminating abortion through a series of flank attacks. On one side, they are attacking access by holding clinics up to medically unnecessary standards and pretending that what they really care about is “women’s health.” (That’s how we ended up with the abomination that is Texas HB 2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill currently at issue in the Supreme Court.)
They’re getting pretty good at decimating access: After all, according to the New York Times, there are only two abortion clinics left in the entire state of Oklahoma.
And on the other side, they are trying to subvert the legal right to an abortion with bills like SB 1552, even though at least one guy has strongly suggested he knows they’re unconstitutional.
Prior to the vote on the bill, its co-sponsor Rep. David Brumbaugh declared that SB 1552 was “not about policy. It’s not about politics. It’s about principle,” according to the Washington Post.
“Do we make laws because they’re moral and right, or do we make them based on what an unelected judicial occupant might question or want to overturn?” Brumbaugh asked. “The last time I looked, that’s why I thought we had a separation of power.”
Well, Mr. Brumbaugh, the last time I looked, the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States—the “unelected judicial occupants” responsible for, you know, determining the law—have determined that banning abortion outright is unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that women have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy up to the point of fetal viability, in Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and the similar cases since.
And just a month ago, the Oklahoma Supreme Court smacked down an effort to put to a vote a ballot initiative that would have banned abortion. The court ruled that the matter was controlled by the United States Supreme Court in Casey, and that because of the Supremacy Clause—what the Supreme Court says goes—Oklahoma can’t do a thing about it, even if they want to.
So why are Oklahoma legislators wasting time and money passing legislation that will be challenged by reproductive rights advocates as soon as Gov. Fallin, or as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes put it, potentially “the country’s worst governor” signs it, if she decides to sign it? Litigation is expensive, and legislators in Oklahoma have passed a law that they damn well know—or at least, should know—is unconstitutional.
It’s not like Oklahoma is flush with cash. Despite the bill’s insistence on protecting “unborn human beings,” the state is facing a severe budget crisis that has led to massive spending cuts in areas that could benefit born human beings—specifically children that live in Oklahoma.
According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, spending cuts are responsible for recently shuttering rural hospitals, eliminating a child abuse prevention program, and closing five to seven county health department sites, which could make key health services like immunization and epidemic monitoring inaccessible for large parts of rural Oklahoma.
Just last month, Oklahoma City Public Schools announced it would be cutting 208 classroom teaching positions due to budget cuts. In Tulsa, school district officials are contemplating eliminating school buses for everyone except special education students. Other districts have agreed that across-the-board teacher pay cuts are the only way to keep schools operational, even though teachers already make so little money that it’s practically criminal. And certain districts in Oklahoma, including Tulsa, have moved to a four-day school week because the state doesn’t have enough money to keep its public schools open five days a week.
Oklahoma doesn’t have any extra money to waste on pointless litigation. Look at what happened in North Dakota after that state’s preposterous legislative attempt to ban abortion at six weeks. The Center for Reproductive Rights sued on behalf of one of the remaining abortion clinics there, and the state ultimately had to pay the center nearly a quarter of a million dollars. That’s a quarter million dollars that could have been better spent on, I don’t know, OTHER SHIT.
Rather than spend money to educate Oklahoman children and keep them healthy, the state is wasting money on a law that will likely be blocked by court order within a month of its passage. And for what? To make a moral point about how much Oklahoma hates abortion?
Hey Oklahoma? We get it.