OKLAHOMA CITY — State Sen. Joseph Silk has introduced a bill in the Oklahoma Legislature that would criminalize abortion by including it in the state's definition of felony homicide.
Senate Bill 13, dubbed the “Abolition of Abortion in Oklahoma Act,” would make abortion a homicide effective Nov. 1 and punishable by up to life in prison.
The intent of the measure is to provide unborn children equal protection of state laws, it says. And that a child is created the moment of fertilization when sperm and the egg combine.
It says any federal laws, regulations, executive orders or court decisions that deprive an unborn child the right to life are void.
But federal law supersedes state law. Federal case law in Roe v. Wade, a 1973 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, legalized abortion.
“Any federal statute, regulation, executive order or court decision which purports to supersede, stay or overrule this act is in violation of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma and the Constitution of the United States of America and is therefore void,” according to the measure. “The State of Oklahoma and its political subdivisions, and agents thereof, may not enter an appearance, special or otherwise, in any federal suit challenging this act.”
Silk, R-Broken Bow, said the provision would not apply to challenges in state court, where state attorneys could defend the measure should it become law.
He said the bill is an effort to assert the state’s sovereignty on the issue and compared it to the effort to abolish slavery, saying several states got on board to abolish slavery.
Some have tried to use bills attempting to abolish abortion as a catalyst to overturn Roe v. Wade, but Silk said that is not his intent.
“The goal is to say we are a sovereign state and choose to abolish abortion,” Silk said.
Courts have tossed out several Oklahoma bills seeking to put additional restrictions on abortion.
In 2016, the Oklahoma Supreme Court halted efforts to circulate an initiative petition seeking a vote to make abortion illegal.
The court said the proposed state question seeking to amend the state constitution was facially unconstitutional. The ACLU of Oklahoma had challenged it.
Gov.-elect Kevin Stitt said on the campaign trail that he is pro-life and would appoint pro-life judges to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. But he didn't comment on the legislation Friday.
"The governor-elect is currently focused on transition, building his team of advisors, and working with our volunteer policy committees to prepare our priorities before filing deadlines," said Donelle Harder, a Stitt spokesman. "As Kevin said on the campaign trail, he is a staunch supporter of protecting the life of the unborn, but we are not yet commenting on specific pieces of legislation."
Allie Shinn, deputy director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, called Silk’s measure an extreme affront to reproductive rights.
“When to have children or whether to have children at all is a deeply personal decision, one in which the government has no right to interfere,” she said. “Sen. Silk is demonstrating yet again that he has little interest in honoring his oath to uphold the constitution.
“Indeed, he seems more interested in scoring cheap political points at the expense of Oklahomans than he is promoting the well-being of his district.”