Sunday, June 4, 2023

Until citizens answer the CLARION CALL, expect more of the same!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     Last week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Senate Bill #1503, which banned abortions after a fetal heartbeat, and House Bill#4327, which banned abortion except in the case of rape or incest, were unconstitutional.  Both bills were passed in 2022 overwhelmingly in both legislative chambers and signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt.  The vote to overturn was 6-3.  Justices Kauger, Winchester, Edmondson, Combs, Gurich and Darby voted to overturn.  Remember those names.  Justices Kane, Rowe and Kuehn voted to not overturn.   The ruling marked the second revoking of pro-life legislation by the state’s high court.

     In this week’s ruling, the majority opinion said the two bills were unconstitutional because they required a ‘medical emergency.’ before a doctor could perform an abortion.  A Tulsa abortion provider sued the state over the laws.  New York based Center for Reproductive Rights provided legal representation for the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case.  Attorney General Gentner Drummond said that despite the ruling, it is still illegal to get an abortion in Oklahoma.  Oklahoma’s ‘1910 law’(Title 21-Chapter 32, Section 861) makes it a felony punishable up to five years in prison for performing an abortion unless it is to save the life of the mother.

     “This court has once more over-involved itself in the state’s democratic process, and has interceded to undo legislation created by the will of the people,” Governor Kevin Stitt said.  Justice Dustin Rowe in his dissent stated: “The issues presented in this matter are political, better resolved by the citizens via our democratic process.”  Three observations:

     First, Oklahoma needs judicial reform.  The current process of how justices are appointed to the high court is not working.  Defenders of the Judicial Nominating Committee (JNC) vetting process the state uses to select members of the high court should rethink their position.  In theory, the evaluation/scrutinization exercise seems effectual, but the proof is in the pudding.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court has consistently been inconsistent.  Their ‘logrolling’ (more than one issue in a bill) decisions have been conflicting and unpredictable.  But one area they have been consistent in- without fail- has been their rulings against the unborn.  Couple that with the cockeyed, implausible judicial retention ballot Oklahoma uses and the result is a high court that is unbalanced and unreliable.

     Second, the ruling was political.  A lot of the rulings the court will decide have a political element to them, but rulings should be based on the law and not an individual justice’s political leanings.  Of the six(6) justices who voted to overturn, five(5) were appointed by Democratic governors.  Their personal position on abortion, if consistent with their Party platform, is pro-choice.  Conversely, the justices who voted to not overturn were appointed by a Republican and are highly likely pro-life.  Oklahomans are overwhelming pro-life, yet the Oklahoma Supreme Court is pro-choice.    

     Third, accountability is key.  Griping, whining, and grumbling accomplishes little.  Consistent involvement in the dirty, nasty, nefarious political arena will make a difference.  If sufficient Oklahoma citizens committed to pay attention to what their government was doing, justices like the six who ruled to kill babies in the womb wouldn’t have made it on the Oklahoma high court.  Citizens need to start attending GOP meetings, learning about the issues, talking with their representatives and asking them ‘hard questions.’  It is time to heed a clarion call!

     In the Middle Ages, a trumpet called a clarion was sounded when action was required by a group.  The trumpet could play a melody in clear, shrill tones, so it could be heard far and wide.  Oklahoma needs a clarion call for citizens to pay attention and press accountability.  Until that happens, expect more of the same.

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