Oklahoma House Republicans abort pro-life bill in secret caucus vote

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OKCapitolLampPost.jpgOklahoma Speaker of the House Kris Steele has pulled a pro-life bill from the House calendar, effectively killing it for the year. SB 1433, which establishes the principle that personhood begins at conception, was, figuratively speaking, poisoned and dismembered by Steele, who claimed the support of a secret vote in the Republican House caucus, according to a story last Thursday by Pat McGuigan of CapitolBeatOK.

Expressing deep disappointment, state Rep. Sally Kern of Oklahoma City, a Republican, said in a statement to CapitolBeatOK, "I am pro-life and do not agree with refusing to grant a floor hearing to any pro-life bill that has gained committee approval.

"While I will abide by the caucus' decision, I certainly was not among those opposing the bill. And I will continue fighting for the rights of the unborn."

The legislation would have found that the "life of each human being begins at conception" and asserted the "laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state."...

Speaker of the House Kris Steele informed members of the Capitol press of the GOP House caucus decision Thursday afternoon. He stressed the decision was "not made unilaterally."

There may well be a solid, substantive reason for a pro-life legislator to oppose this bill, even though this is a bill strongly supported by Oklahomans for Life, but that debate and vote should have been held openly, not behind closed doors. If I were in charge of the Oklahomans for Life scorecard, I'd have to give a demerit to every Republican member of the House and assume they voted in secret to kill the bill unless they take active, public steps to override Speaker Steele and allow the bill to be heard on the floor of the House.

Killing bills in secret out of fear for political consequences is the sort of garbage the Democrats used to pull when they had the majority. I expect better from my fellow Oklahoma Republicans, particularly in light of our strong history of passing pro-life legislation. Shame, shame, shame on Speaker Steele and his accomplices.

State Sen. Brian Crain, author of SB 1433, says that there may have been confusion about his bill:

Crain, R-Tulsa, said opponents to his bill became confused with his measure and proposals being advanced by a national group on personhood, which is supporting Oklahoma's initiative petition effort.

"They started mixing up one for the other and thought they were all the same," he said.

"There were some people that knew that this thing was constitutional; they just chose to not be completely open about what they thought this bill truly did."

Crain said the bill is based on a law in Missouri, which was upheld in 1989 by the U.S. Supreme Court.

MORE: State Rep. Paul Wesselhöft pins the blame for stopping the personhood bill on the State Chamber of Commerce. From his April 20, 2012, press release:

State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft said today he is disappointed that the personhood bill will not be given a hearing on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

"When I ran for this office, I promised my constituents that I would be a pro-life voice in the Legislature," Wesselhoft said. "Therefore, my constituents and Republican friends deserve to know that I strongly supported, argued and voted for the Personhood bill to be heard in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

"Unfortunately, a majority of my Republicans colleagues voted not to hear it. That bill could have sent a vital moral message that human life in the womb is not a blob of tissue but a living person created in the Image of God.

"I don't believe SB1433 presented a substantive problem but an image problem for the State Chamber of Commerce."

House leadership announced this week that Senate Bill 1433 would not be given a floor hearing in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. The legislation simply declares that the "life of each human being begins at conception" and that the "laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state."

Meanwhile, although Steele claimed the bill would have no substantive effect (if not, then why kill it?), leading pro-abortion lobby group Planned Parenthood is celebrating his decision:

Photo from the okhouse.gov website

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 24, 2012 1:31 AM.

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