Oklahoma Dems should not wait to embrace abortion rights, wading fully into the fight
How much more evidence will it take before they realize it's a winning issue?
If Oklahoma Republicans were really smart, they’d put up a 16-week abortion ban next time the legislature meets, pass it, Kevin Stitt would sign it and just like that they’d nullify the one issue with the power to derail the one-party monolith they all but have already.
Good thing they’re not.
If you’ve forgotten, our governor’s a Republican, so is the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the treasurer, the labor commissioner, our horrid superintendent, all three of our corporation commissioners, both of our U.S. senators, all five of our U.S. House members, 81 of 101 state house reps, 40 of 48 state senators and if I’m forgetting anybody, they’re a Republican, too.
We’ve become such a one-party state the one party has begun to act like two.
There’s the one to which Stitt and Ryan Walters belong, which gives not a hoot about the U.S. nor Oklahoma constitutions and would have you believe the lack of religiously affiliated public schools amounts to the crushing of religious freedom when the opposite is true, filled with folks happy to accept conspiracy theories or are spreading them themselves.
It’s the bigger one.
There’s also the one to which Gentner Drummond and Leslie Osborn belong, our attorney general and labor commissioner, perhaps a smattering of state reps and senators, too, who may be Republicans because it’s the only way to get elected in this state, otherwise they wouldn’t be, but who also may simply be old fashioned pols who happen to be Republicans, who got into government to, egads, govern, not just to do right by their voters but the whole state, too.
Oklahoma Democrats most resemble a third party.
They fight the good fight, are perhaps the moral conscience of the legislature, probably swing a little influence here and there, occasionally aligning with Republicans who’ve yet to lose their mind, but who must also be gluttons for punishment for all the power they don’t wield.
Unless, at last, they come to understand no matter what the polls may say, no matter what may be said inside the state capitol or the pulpit, or how insanely socially conservative they’re convinced our state to be, the abortion fight is the best ticket available to begin a path back to relevance.
Because when the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade two Junes ago, Republicans became the dogs who caught the car.
As long as the courts protected abortion, those who preferred it legal had the luxury of not considering it at the ballot box.
Tuesday, though, reminded us again how big an opportunity the issue can still be in a red state like ours.
In Ohio, on Tuesday, a state Donald Trump won by eight points — 53.3% to 45.2% — abortion rights were enshrined into the state constitution by more than half a million votes, or 56.6% to 43.4%.
Other votes where abortion has been at issue have gone the same way in California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and Vermont.
Perhaps you’re thinking: great, but what’s that got to do with Oklahoma?
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As for California, Michigan and Vermont, blue states all, maybe not much. But the other three are dang near as red as Oklahoma, so take a look at each.
Fortunately, Montana had no trigger law ready to go the moment the high court sent abortion back to the states.
Thus, about a year ago on the nose, perhaps with an idea toward testing the waters, a state referendum appeared that, if carried, would have required medical workers provide care in the rare, rare, rare instances a baby were to survive an abortion procedure. The called it the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.
The medical community lined up against it and so did the voters, rejecting it 52.6% to 47.4%, even in a state Donald Trump carried two years earlier 56.9% to 40.5%.
The moment Roe v. Wade was overturned, abortion became outlawed in the state and remains so. Nonetheless, a year ago, a constitutional amendment showed up on Kentucky ballots to ban it all over again, this time by writing it into the state constitution.
The voters said no by a wide margin, killing the amendment 52.3% to 47.7% in a state Donald Trump carried two years earlier 62.1% to 36.2%.
Finally, our neighbor to the north, which gave its 2020 electoral votes to Donald Trump by the healthy margin of 56.1% to 41.5%.
You have to hand it to righteous Kansans because they showed up to bat down an amendment to their state constitution that wasn’t their own.
Instead, because abortion opponents didn’t care for some pro-abortion decisions handed down by the Kansas Supreme Court, they staged a referendum — on primary day, no less, when they must have believed a smaller turnout served their purposes — that would have the state constitution assert no right to an abortion exists. Because they have no finesse nor creativity, they called it the No Right To An Abortion Ballot Issue.
It failed 59% to 41%.
Trump did not quite carry those states the way he carried ours, 65.4% to 32.3%, yet it’s still a large body of evidence for pro-choice, pro-women’s health, pro-women’s autonomy and anti-government encroachment-into-our-private-lives forces to get busy on the issue right here in Oklahoma.
As mentioned, Republicans would be smart to pass a 16-week ban.
Doing it would allow a majority of abortions to become legal again — a good thing — while almost certainly staving off any groundswell of Oklahomans ready to become single-issue voters in the name of a more liberal policy.
But they won’t because it would feel like a defeat and, despite their numbers, they’re mostly political dummies who don’t believe in the right of women (and others) to have autonomy in the world nor in their own bodies.
Typically, the term “political football” describes an issue nobody wants to touch.
But Oklahoma Democrats should be grabbing it with both hands, determined to carry it into the end zone.
Every gubernatorial candidate until the end of time should be all over it. Ditto in house and senate races. Efforts should be being made to put it on the ballot, pronto, preferably in a general election.
Because here’s the thing:
Even in defeat — and there’s no reason to believe such a measure would be defeated — ground is gained.
Republicans believe the state’s on their side on this one by wide margins, yet the moment they realize it’s not — and it’s not; certainly not by the 14 points Stitt and Walters prevailed by — they’ll have to adjust their positions or threaten losing elections, both good things.
Hey Dems, talk about an easy call.
It’s an issue of our time, you’ve been on the right side the whole time, and no longer must you apologize for it.
Now you can run on it.
You’d be crazy not to.