The Last Frontier: God and Reproductive Rights in Oklahoma
The ongoing battle over a Ten Commandments monument erected on the courthouse lawn in Stigler, Oklahoma between the Haskell County Board of Commissioners and the ACLU has finally come to an end with the U.S. Supreme Court declining to even review the case. This follows a bitter struggle for the separation of church and state leading all the way to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in which, by unanimous decision, the court ruled that the monument violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution and that in erecting it, the county commissioners “advanced their personal religious beliefs”.
In a statement on the final outcome of the case, Joann Bell, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma said, “All Oklahomans, of all creeds – and not just those who share the beliefs of those in power – should feel welcome at the county courthouse.”
When our government, whether at the local, state or federal level promotes something as inclusionary as religion, specifically Christianity, how are those who have different beliefs supposed to feel? There is an increasingly volatile undercurrent that pushes the beliefs of the vocal, well-funded majority onto anyone with differing views. An agenda. If you don’t share that same belief system or if you speak out against it, that makes you somehow un-American. Yet, the same people who decry “big government” interference always seem to be the ones introducing legislation that is downright invasive to its citizens. This fight to have a religious monument on government property is only one instance of religious groups and conservatives funneling their belief systems through legislative channels and chipping away at our individual freedoms in the process.
Recently in Oklahoma, the State House approved anti-abortion legislation. In what some have called one of the strictest and “most extreme” abortion laws in the country, House Bill 1595 bans women from getting an abortion based on gender selection. That in and of itself doesn’t sound so awful even though I don’t believe that anyone should have the power over what a woman chooses for herself. But, they are sneaky. The bill also requires doctors to ask their patients 37 personal questions pertaining to their race, relationship status, relationship issues, whether the woman having the abortion was an employee of the state, education level and what county they reside in among others. This information would then be compiled by the state at a cost of $256,285 every year and then released as public information.
In addition, it requires abortion providers to post signs stating "you may not be coerced into having an abortion.” What about the coercion of intimidation to those who seek abortions?
The Center for Reproductive Rights filed an injunction and a judge has ruled HB 1595 to be unconstitutional. Unfortunately, not for the reason we might think. The Oklahoma Constitution bans multiple subjects to be included in a single piece of legislation. The Bill’s author, Republican Senator Todd Lamb, argues that it only has one: “The first part, prohibition of sex selection, the second part, abortion reporting, they both deal with the same thing, the sanctity of human life.”
Rest assured, new bills are being drafted separating out each issue, which will no doubt pass with lawsuits to follow. But, my question still remains, how is this not government interference of a highly intrusive nature into the lives of its citizens? Or are women still simply second-class citizens who shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions for themselves?