The Oklahoma Legislature is poised to once again address a number of abortion-related issues this spring. And, while no issue has defined the two major political parties in this country over the last 30 years more so than abortion rights, many Oklahomans remain “pro-life” in their views.
This issue continues to create an emotional, theological and political divide that has moved entire constituencies, and has created what many consider a litmus test among those who are progressive and those who are conservative in their thinking.
The pro-life agenda is not one that necessarily recognizes party lines at the Oklahoma Capitol, or among Oklahoma voters, in no small part due to our religious nature. Even those of our community who consider themselves “progressive” are most likely attending the church of their choice on Sunday morning, and because the issue is often defined by the religious paradigm by which we each view life, many on both sides of the political aisle consider themselves pro-life.
Part of our uniqueness and strength as a community is that we are a people of faith. While the last 20 years have seen the issue of abortion seemingly define the political spectrum in this country and placed a theological issue into the heart of the political debate, many Oklahomans have remained steadfast in their views on the subject regardless of political party. Voters of both parties have seen their views questioned, ridiculed and lampooned in the name of progressive thought. Even among some Republican circles it has become chic to modify your position to appease the “more enlightened masses.”
Some have advocated a Barry Goldwater approach, arguing that the true conservative view may be that the government should not be involved in the decisions between a woman and their doctor, while others have simply changed their position for political expediency.
However, when I discovered that even the “Lion of the Senate,” Sen. Ted Kennedy, was at one time an ardent pro-lifer, I knew the issue did not necessarily define one as backward or lacking enlightened thought. In a letter dated Aug. 3, 1971, Kennedy wrote that, “While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. “¦ When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generations as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”
The pro-life view is not one that hopes to dictate or control a woman’s personal health, but one that places a premium on the value of life. Kennedy eloquently defined the meaning of pro-life beyond even the simple paradigm of abortion and outlined the overriding goal of a community, while providing guidance to the pro-life movement of today.
Oklahoma legislators must remember that there must be a balance between the needs of the mother and the desire to protect life. If they are sincere in their efforts, they will value all aspects of that life. We must remember that pro-life means not only valuing the life in the womb, but continuing to ensure the peace, safety and well-being of that life in the years to come.
Smith is an attorney living in Oklahoma City.