OKLAHOMA CITY — In its first meaningful action of the 2020 legislative session, the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Thursday passed and sent to the Senate legislation that would effectively ban almost all abortions in the state by revoking the licenses of doctors performing the procedure, except in situations threatening the life of a woman.

House Bill 1182, by Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, passed 71-21 along party lines, with eight members absent or not voting. The measure would revoke for one year the medical licenses of doctors performing abortions except when a women’s life is in danger. It specifically excludes the women’s mental state as a consideration in such decision.

The bill is a carryover measure from last year and similar to one vetoed in 2016 by then-Gov. Mary Fallin, who cited constitutional concerns.

Constitutionality is no longer viewed as the obstacle it once was by those intent on banning abortion. Aside from changes in the makeup of the federal courts, they take inspiration from state legalization of marijuana.

Olsen, in an exchange with Rep. Jay Steagall, R-Yukon, noted that marijuana remains illegal under federal law but allowed for medicinal use in Oklahoma. Olsen said Oklahoma should assert the same principle regarding abortion — to in effect ignore federal court decisions.

One group, called Free the States, goes even further by demanding Oklahoma include abortion as murder and passing legislation saying it will not abide by court orders to the contrary.

Olsen’s bill does not go that far, but he and others indicated they are headed in that direction.

“We are told the (U.S.) Supreme Court is the supreme law of the land, that we cannot protest its decision,” Olsen said in debate. “There is a court even higher than the Supreme Court. There is the court of God. Abortion is a violation of the law of God.”

Nationally, the so-called abolition movement is urging state abortion bans under the theory that, as with marijuana, federal law will be rendered moot if ignored by the states.

Supporters said HB 1182 passes constitutional muster because courts have ruled states have the right to regulate medical licensure, but that point was hardly mentioned during the two hours the bill was debated and discussed.

The importance of abortion was voiced by Rep. J.J. Humphrey, R-Lane, who said, “This is the core issue of not only this state but the United States. ... Sanctity of life is foremost.”

Democrats argued in vain that the measure amounts to “big brotherism” — an intrusion into personal safety, and that the ethics and morals of abortion is far from established. Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, pointed out that the Southern Baptist Convention once argued in favor of legalized abortion, and that the Puritans did not consider abortion wrong.

Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, said abortion rates have gone down most in states that have not tried to further restrict it and argued the most effective measure to reduce abortions has been easy access to contraceptives.

“Folks, this is not an easy issue,” said Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman. “It’s not black and white. There are situations with a lot of nuance. For us to wade into the nuance, the most personal details of a person’s life, of a family ... for us to say that we know better, that we know what’s best for you, to insert ourselves into this most personal situation, I think is just wrong.”

Gallery: Bills proposed for Oklahoma’s 2020 legislative session


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Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365

randy.krehbiel@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @rkrehbiel

Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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