Last week, two pieces of legislation that would further restrict abortions passed an Oklahoma House committee, and citizens on both sides of the issue are talking about its possible effects.
Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, is also an osteopathic physician, and he wrote one of the two bills. Ritze’s measure, House Bill 2418, if approved by a full vote of the House, would require doctors who perform abortions to have “clinical privileges at a hospital which offers obstetrical or gynecological care that is located within 30 miles of the location at which the abortion is performed.”
Ritze told the Associate Press the measure is necessary, as “a person can hemorrhage to death very quickly,” and a backup plan needs to be in place for those situations.
This measure closely mirrors similar legislation recently passed in Texas. That law is currently in litigation, pending a ruling from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Democrats argue the bill is unnecessary, because Oklahoma already has a law requiring doctors who perform abortions to either have privileges or an agreement with a local doctor with privileges in the area in which the abortion services are offered.
Randy Grau, R-Edmond, wrote a bill targeting the use of abortion-inducing drugs. That was done in response to a recent decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which ruled Grau’s similar 2011 bill was unconstitutional.
Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, said he is personally pro-life, and legislation relating to abortion in the House is always deeply emotional to its members.
“However, I do respect the rights of others and understand we do not all share the same opinions,” said Brown. “The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on this issue at the federal level and declared freedom of choice to be constitutionally protected in the United States. Rep. Grau is attempting to change federal law at the state level. If he wants to change the law of the land, he will need to run for the U.S. Congress and change it there.”
Brown pointed out that Tahlequah City Hospital already has a policy in place requiring physicians certified to perform abortions have privileges at the hospital.
Brown doesn’t sit on the committees that have heard the bills, and has been focusing on the budget.
“With the $188 million dollar shortfall in revenue facing Oklahoma, my main focus so far this session has been on the state budget,” said Brown. “Since neither of the bills mentioned has been heard in any of the committees on which I serve, my first opportunity to listen to the debate and act on the bills will be when they are presented on the Floor of the House.”
He said he will listen attentively to the debate before making a decision on a vote.
“My response will be based on the information presented, my personal convictions, and the oath I took to uphold the Constitution,” said Brown. “With our state agencies continuing to be underfunded and cutting services, Oklahoma cannot continue to spend much-needed resources defending legislation we know to be unconstitutional.”
Cherokee County Democratic Party Chairwoman Dana Rogers believes the abortion issue was settled decades ago in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The issue of women’s rights to access safe abortions in the U.S. was litigated in the early 1970s,” said Rogers. “Regardless of one’s personal belief of the issue, abortion is legal in the U.S.”
Rogers said she is “disgusted” that taxpayer money is being used to fund an attempt to regulate a “clearly moral issue” that has already been litigated.
“Further, as men [legislators proposing the bills], have no right to attempt to regulate a personal and very private decision made by a female,” said Rogers. “Why not address issues that will benefit the citizens of Oklahoma, such as the fact that many full-time state employees qualify for [food stamp] benefits and reduced school lunches?”
Rogers believes the decision to terminate a pregnancy, regardless of the reason, is deeply personal and difficult.
“If these legislators are attempting to use their religion to regulate morals, they need to remember the whole ‘judge not, lest ye be judged,’ passage,” said Rogers. “Like every other legal thing, just because it is legal doesn’t mean you have to do it. If you don’t believe in gay marriage, don’t get one. If you don’t believe in tattoos, don’t get one. If you don’t believe in having an abortion, don’t get one. It’s that simple.”
Local resident Brad Wagnon is communications director of the Abolitionist Society of Tahlequah. According to the website link provided by Wagnon, the group compares itself to the first Christians, the British abolitionists and the abolitionists of slavery, and seeks to abolish all access to abortions in the U.S.
Wagnon said his opinion to both of the current bills can be summed up in one statement.
“This type of legislation will never end abortion,” said Wagnon. “These bills are the latest in a long line of ineffectual proposals put forth to regulate and codify the legal murder of human beings created in the image of God. The mainstream pro-life movement and the Republican Party, at their behest, has for 41 years put forth this type of compromising legislation that has done nothing to slow the abortion rate or end abortion. They are ploys to raise money and win elections, nothing more.”
Wagnon believes the only way abortion will be abolished is by changing the culture.
“The only real way to do this is through the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Wagnon. “The front lines in the abolition of abortion are not the abortion clinics, but in the church of our nation and in the public square. Going to the abortion clinics, sharing the gospel, pleading for the lives of babies and offering women and families assistance is important. But the clinics are the final line, not the front line; they are the final effort to hold people back from slaughter. When the people of God wake up and practice the two greatest commandments – to love God and love their neighbor as themselves – the culture will be changed and abortion will be abolished.”
To read an online exclusive poll about readers’ opinions on abortion, go to tahlequahTDP.com