OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — A motion to hear a bill that would have outlawed abortion in the state of Oklahoma was tabled on Wednesday, with 30 Republicans and 8 Democrats voting not to allow the bill to be pulled from the committee that had declined to give it a hearing and move it directly to the Senate floor. A rule in the Senate allows legislation to move to the floor with a two-thirds vote, but only four lawmakers voted in favor of hearing the proposal to make abortion criminal homicide and defy Roe v. Wade.
“It was almost your establishment Republican pro-life hypocrisy,” Sen. Joseph Smith, R-Broken Bow, told reporters. “It was kind of their last stand, is what it was.”
According to reports, Silk made a motion to bring his bill, S.B. 13, also known as the Abolition of Abortion in Oklahoma Act, to the Senate floor. It was a last-ditch effort to save the measure, which had not been given a hearing for the third year in a row.
Senate Rule 7-9 allows for bills to be withdrawn from committee and brought directly to the full Senate, stating, “Any bill or resolution may be withdrawn from any committee of the Senate upon a two-thirds vote of the members of the Senate. Any bill or resolution so withdrawn shall be on General Order.”
Supporters of the bill lined the hall, holding signs such as “Today is the day! Hear S.B. 13!” and chanting “S.B. 13, equal protection!”
But Senate Majority Leader Kim David, R-Porter, said that she did not want to break the tradition of having bills pass through committee first. She moved to table.
“I moved to table that measure because we have never done that,” she told reporters. “I mean, the history of the Senate is that bills work through the process through committee, and I want that process to be able to continue as long as I’m in charge of the floor.”
The bill had not been heard in committee because Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Greg McCortney, a professing Christian who holds a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, had declined to even give the proposal a hearing, which would spell its demise.
Christian News Network had contacted McCortney for comment, but the call was not returned.
According to Asbury Theological Seminary, after McCortney graduated from the institution, he planted a church in Norman, Oklahoma, and “[a]fter experiencing burn out with the administrative tasks of pastoring, he took a job as a hospice chaplain.”
“I’ve done a lot in my life now, but I don’t think I’ve ever attempted something big, as much as I’ve told God ‘yes,’ and He turned my ‘yes’ into big things,” McCortney told the school. “I didn’t set out to do many of the things that I’ve done. I’ve just been willing to do what God wanted me to do.”
Silk has expressed his disappointment with committee members such as McCortney who profess to be pro-life and Christian but decline to allow his bill to obtain a hearing. Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, told Tulsa World last month that while he wants to see abortion made illegal again, he believes that the proposed legislation is “fatally flawed.”
“For two years we tried to work it through committee, and they would deny it a hearing, deny it a hearing, deny it a hearing, because they didn’t want to be on the record voting for or against it,” Silk said on Wednesday, according to News9. “They were able to default to the chairman and say the chairman didn’t want to hear it.”
As previously reported, last year, then-Health and Human Services Committee Chair Jason Smalley likewise declined to allow S.B. 13 to have a hearing as he did not agree with the approach, although identifying as pro-life.
“I’m extremely pro-life. I support the efforts. I support the cause, and I do support the author. I just do not support this kind of method,” Smalley, who attends First Baptist Church of Stroud, told local television station KFOR at the time, opining that the bill put forward is “extremely unconstitutional.”
“We have other bills. There’s a personhood bill. We could look at the heartbeat bill. I mean, there’s other pro-life movement bills that we could tank up and discuss and continue that movement towards I think what we all want,” he said, “but this is not the method nor the bill to do that.”
Some lawmakers prefer an incremental, regulatory approach, choosing to rather regulate abortion or ban only certain types of abortions or at certain stages of development. They feel that it is all that can be done until the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
But others believe that Roe is unconstitutional, immoral and ungodly, and should simply be ignored. Silk is among those who have chosen to propose that the State ignore Roe and exercise state sovereignty.
“The Supreme Court also ruled that slaves were private property and they were wrong. And so, the courts do need to be challenged,” Silk said in 2018. “The goal is to say we are a sovereign state and choose to abolish abortion.”
His stand has not been accepted by most Republican legislators, who have not allowed the bill to move forward.
David subsequently made a motion to table Silk’s motion as the measure had not been heard again this year and she didn’t want to bypass the committee. 30 Republicans and eight Democrats in all voted to table instead of hearing the proposal, thus killing the bill for another legislative season. View the list in full here.
Besides Silk, three other lawmakers voted for the bill to be heard: Sen. Chris Kidd, R-Addington; Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow; and Sen. Roland Pederson, R-Burlington.
“It is the intent of the legislature to provide to unborn children the equal protection of the laws of this state; to establish that a living human child, from the moment of fertilization upon the fusion of a human spermatozoon with a human ovum, is entitled to the same rights, powers, privileges, justice and protections as are secured or granted by the laws of this state to any other human person,” Silk’s bill read in part.
It also would have removed an exception from current Oklahoma homicide law that excludes prosecution when “acts were committed during a legal abortion to which the pregnant woman consented.”
“Homicide shall include, but not be limited to, acts which cause the death of an unborn child committed during an abortion,” the proposed legislation stated.
The bill further directed the district attorney to enforce the law, “regardless of any contrary or conflicting federal statutes, regulations, executive orders, or court decisions.”
In addition to Republican lawmakers keeping the bill at a standstill, pro-life identifying groups likewise opposed the legislation out of the belief that states must wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe and regulate legalized abortion in the meantime, as a complete abolition of abortion would quickly be struck down by the courts. As reported, Silk’s bill required the State to ignore the courts and enforce the law regardless of any contrary ruling.
Organizations such as the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Oklahomans for Life all expressed opposition last year.
One website, called “Abolition Truth,” was launched in January to take aim at S.B. 13 in asserting that it will not “save a single life.” It is not known who is behind the site.
“The measure would not end abortion in Oklahoma since the law would immediately be enjoined either by a state or federal court,” it reads. “Such an injunction would remain in effect until such time as a legal challenge could be heard and decided in that court.”
However, a number of pastors in the state wholeheartedly supported the measure, stating that complete abolition and interposition is the only Christian stance to take.
“The only consistent position to hold as a Christian is the immediate end of abortion,” declared Jay Jones, pastor of Christ Fellowship Church in Lawton, in a joint video last year. “You cannot support these type of [incremental and regulatory] laws … Praise God they’re going to be repealed [by this bill], because they’re wicked.”
“We’re mourning the death of the over 5,500 babies that were slaughtered in our state last year,” Dusty Deevers, pastor of Grace Community Church in Elgin, also told reporters this week. “These are our brothers and sisters. They’re preborn image bearers of God.”
According to reports, 100 pastors had signed a petition calling for the bill to be heard.
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Editor’s Note: This report and its headline have been updated to provide further clarity regarding the demise of the bill.