The current state legislative session has been a good civics lesson, reminding us that our democracy exists only if we participate in it.
Senate Bill 714, a bill that is bad for women, bad for physicians and nurses, bad for your health and bad for Oklahoma, almost became law last week.
The bill would have prohibited doctors who operate in “public” facilities (University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, its clinics, and other health clinics serving moderate and low-income people) from performing abortions except to save a woman’s life. No exceptions were made for women who become pregnant by rape or incest, or for those women carrying a fetus with fatal or severe abnormalities. If a doctor felt the best, safest medical treatment for his or her patient was abortion, he could be subjected to criminal charges. The bill overwhelmingly passed both the state House and Senate.
Then Gov. Brad Henry and 17 state senators prevented this unreasonable bill from becoming law, when Henry boldly and sensibly vetoed the measure, and the senators voted to uphold that veto by a one-vote margin. They couldn’t have done it without us.
So who’s “us”?
Those who took the time to communicate with the governor and legislators in person, by phone, by letter or e-mail against the bill.
Doctors and nurses, some new to government-in-action, whose professional relationships with their patients and their principles of practice were threatened.
Women and their family members whose decisions about reproduction are sacred and personal to them.
Oklahoma citizens ” conservative, moderate and liberal Americans who believe government should not claim a role in a woman’s private medical decisions.
SB 714 is not dead. An attempt to vote again could come any time before May 2008. Its author and chief sponsor, Sen. James Williamson, R-Tulsa, has said he will try again to round up enough votes to override the governor’s veto.
If only one senator changes his or her vote, the governor’s veto will be overridden and the measure will become law.
What can we do now? Get off our duffs, pick up the phone, go to the keyboard or, better yet, the state Capitol, and tell these opponents of lawful abortion that democracy is not a spectator sport and we will be heard, too.
Speak up to bolster the governor and state senators who spoke up for us, our families and our doctors. And speak out against those opposed us, showing them the door in their next elections.
Call or write Henry and thank him at 521-2342.
Call, write or visit these state senators and offer thanks, praise and support, including financial support if you can:
Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa Roger Ballenger, D-Okmulgee Randy Bass, D-Lawton Johnnie Crutchfield, D-Ardmore Judy Eason McIntyre, D-Tulsa Constance Johnson, D-OklahomaCity Charlie Laster, D-Shawnee Debbe Leftwich, D-OklahomaCity Richard Lerblance, D-Hartshorne Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater Jeff Rabon, D-Hugo Andrew Rice, D-OklahomaCity Nancy Riley, D-Tulsa John Sparks, D-Norman Joe Sweeden, D-Pawhuska Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah Charles Wyrick, D-Fairland.
Before the state Senate saw action on this bill, versions of it were debated in the state House of Representatives.
Especially thoughtful and conscientious in their opposition (call, write or visit) were:
Doug Cox, R-Grove Darrell Gilbert, D-Tulsa Ryan Kiesel, D-Seminole Al Lindley, D-Oklahoma City
It’s as simple as making a few phone calls, taking an hour away from lunch and writing a letter thanking the governor and those members of the state House and Senate who take the arrows for the rest of us. That’s democracy.
Let’s do it.
Fleischaker, former Oklahoma Gazette associate editor, has served as a commentary writer since 1987.