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Monday, March 19th, 2018Last Update: Sunday, February 4th, 2018 06:56:13 PM

What is the best way to fight abortion?

By: Steve Byas

The Oklahoma Supreme Court, for the second time, has gone beyond its bounds and struck down an initiative petition designed to either restrict or outright outlaw abortion in this state.

The Court ruled that a proposed initiative petition was in contradiction to their understand of U.S. Supreme Court rulings (such as Roe v. Wade), and would therefore not be allowed to even be considered by the voters of Oklahoma this year.

Back in the 1990s, the Oklahoma Court prevented another petition effort to reach the voters. That petition would have prevented many abortions, but would have allowed exceptions in cases where the life or health of the mother was in danger, or in cases of rape or incest.

The latest petition effort, on the other hand, would have outlawed abortion, making it a homicidal act. This petition was spearheaded by T. Russell Hunter of Norman, Oklahoma. At first he attempted to get the Oklahoma Legislature to send his proposal to a vote of the people. When that effort appeared doomed to failure, he took advantage of the state's constitutional provision allowing for forcing a statewide vote by initiative petition.

Oklahoma's state constitution is the product of the so-called Progressive Era, having been adopted in 1907 during that period. A major tenet of the progressives was that people should be allowed to make an end-run, if you will, around the state legislature, and create law directly though an initiative petition process. Once the petition receives enough signatures, and those signatures are validated by the secretary of state's office as belonging to registered voters, the governor can then either call a special election or allow it to go onto the next general election ballot.

In this current case, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a challenge and the Supreme Court of Oklahoma decided to short-circuit the whole deal, and not even allow the vote.

Under the state constitution, the "first power reserved by the people is the initiative." And while the "legislative authority of the state shall be vested in a Legislature, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives," the Constitution of Oklahoma also clearly states "the people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws and amendments to the Constitution."

One could make a logical case that the decision of the Oklahoma Supreme Court to not even allow a vote of the people on this petition is an act of usurpation of the legislative power of the people specifically reserved under the state's constitution.

The analogy could be made that the this would be the equivalent of the nine members of the Oklahoma Supreme Court strolling onto the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives in the middle of a roll call vote, and demanding the vote cease.

While certainly any person affected by an Oklahoma law has a right to have a case heard in the state's courts, it is beyond belief that any of them, including the Supreme Court, would actually have the audacity to attempt to stop a roll call vote of a legislative body. Yet, by not allowing a vote of the people on an initiative petition, simply because the court did not agree with what the petition proposed to do, is in direct contradiction of the constitutional provision that the people of Oklahoma have an equal right with the legislature to make laws.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court made its Roe v. Wade decision in January, 1973, which essentially struck down the laws restricting abortion in all 50 states, several different efforts to counteract that nefarious decision have been launched. Originally, the pro-life movement's efforts were concentrated on a Human Life Amendment, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would have outlawed abortion. The problem with this approach was the difficulty in amending the Constitution, which would take two-third vote of each house of Congress, and the ratification of three-fourth of the states. Another problem, I contend, is that this approach was a tacit acknowledgment that the Supreme Court had the constitutional authority to make its Roe v. Wade decision.

Eventually, the pro-life movement opted to try other courses of action, including supporting "pro-life" candidates for president, with the hope that they would appoint justices of the Supreme Court that would then overturn Roe v. Wade. That has been a mixed bag -- with only about half the Republican-appointed justices in the camp of ditching Roe v. Wade, and all the Democrat-appointed justices defending it. The math for the pro-life side doesn't work.

Over the past several years, thanks to the efforts of Tony Lauinger, president of Oklahomans for Life, and other pro-life leaders in Oklahoma, the state legislature has passed many laws restricting the practice of abortion, which has led to a significant reduction in the number of legal abortions in the state.

Back during the time of the second Bush Administration, Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) attempted to accelerate this process, by introducing a bill that would have taken state legislation restricting abortion away from any review by a federal court. Unfortunately, although President George W. Bush was elected as a "pro-life" president, he refused to support Paul's effort, effectively ending its chances of passage.

The incremental approach of restricting abortion has caused much consternation on the part of many pro-abortion groups, who lament that these laws make it so difficult for some women to obtain an abortion that they finally just choose to either keep the baby or place the child for adoption.

In the Hunter petition effort, the goal was to simply declare abortion homicide and completely ban the practice.

These two approaches have led to somewhat of a split in the pro-life movement, with the "abolitionists" like Hunter arguing that the only moral path is to ban abortion altogether, not just whittle away at the edges.

Abolitionists seem to argue that anything less than abolition is an immoral compromise, and therefore they condemn the incremental approach. While I certainly understand their position, I reject it. This is like saying Schindler should not have bothered with his "list" -- if we cannot save all the unborn children we should not bother with restrictions like parental notification, parental consent, licensing of abortion clinics, and so forth.

I would have voted for the Hunter petition had the Supreme Court not circumvented the process. But, if given the option of saving some unborn children or saving none, I would vote to save some.

Liberals figured this out a long time ago -- enacting socialism one bite at a time, since the public would not swallow it whole. Over time, the public has weakened in its opposition to legal plunder and the Welfare State just grows and grows. But keep trying to enact a total ban. This causes the less hard-core pro-abortion folks to accept the incremental restrictions, and moves us ever closer to the day when we can rise up and say, "No more abortion at last! No more abortion at last! Thank God Almighty, no more abortion at last!"

About Steve Byas

Steve Byas is editor of the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper. He may be contacted at:

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