Oklahoma Politics: October 2009 Archives

New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich traveled to Sen. Tom Coburn's Muskogee farm for a profile which appears in today's edition:

As the health care overhaul heads to the Senate floor, Mr. Coburn is preparing for what he considers a career pinnacle of havoc. Enacting the proposal, he says, would be catastrophic, and so if precedent holds, he will try to hinder it with every annoying tool in his arsenal: filing amendments (he has done that 508 times since joining the Senate, second only to John McCain's 542 in that period), undertaking filibusters and objecting strenuously.

"When it comes to obstructing bills, he is part of a very tiny pantheon in the history of the Senate," said Ross Baker, a Senate historian at Rutgers University.

To Mr. Coburn, charges of obstructionism are a mark of honor he will wear as proudly as ever in the coming weeks.

"My mission is to frame this health care debate in terms of the fiscal ruin of this country," said the 61-year-old Mr. Coburn, who recently railed on the Senate floor that the federal debt was "waterboarding" his five grandchildren. "I have instructed my staff to clear my schedule for every minute that bill is on the floor."

After inflicting migraines in Washington, Mr. Coburn goes home on weekends to Muskogee, where he treats patients on Mondays. He says he does his best thinking aboard his John Deere mower, which can run 20 miles an hour and slash through pretty much anything on his seven-acre meadow. Mr. Coburn dons earplugs, stares straight ahead and cuts a determined swath, just as he does in the Senate.

And now for the story behind the story, from Politico:

While in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Leibovich was gamely listening to Coburn coo over how much he loves mowing his fields with his beloved John Deere tractor. At the end of the interview, we hear, Coburn bravely attempted to teach the scribe just how to use his John Deere. (Apparently, it's quite the machine, with different protruding levers and what not. For clarification, please imagine the chicken scene in "Footloose.")

Leibovich, a city kid at heart hailing from the Boston suburbs, became instantly overwhelmed and in front of a photographer and the fine senator, wound up driving the tractor straight into Coburn's barn....

Coburn's office shared some more info on the whole ordeal. Spokesman John Hart explained, "In act of heroism, a New York Times reporter on a high performance John Deere tractor narrowly avoided colliding with Senator Coburn who was decapitating a water moccasin that was slithering toward his barn. The reporter instead grazed the Senator's barn, missing the Senator with room to spare. An armadillo meandering through the field was not so lucky, however."

RELATED: A vivid illustration of the rate of growth of the national debt over the last 100 years:

You have likely heard about the lawsuit by abortion advocates seeking to halt implementation of Oklahoma's newly enacted abortion reporting legislation, due to go into effect on November 1, 2009. Here is a news release from Oklahomans for Life debunking a number of claims made in the lawsuit:

NEW OKLAHOMA ABORTION-REPORTING LAW DESIGNED TO HELP WOMEN Abortion advocates, news accounts misrepresent law

TULSA - Abortion advocates, aided by several recent news accounts, continue to misrepresent a new Oklahoma law strengthening abortion reporting in the state. The Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act, set to go into effect on November 1, 2009, was passed by large majorities in the Oklahoma House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Brad Henry in May. It is being challenged in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"Abortion advocates either don't understand - or else are intentionally misrepresenting - Oklahoma's new abortion-reporting law," said Tony Lauinger, state chairman of Oklahomans For Life. "It is not true, as alleged, that reports about individual women's abortions will be posted online, nor will reports about individual abortions contain personal identifying information: no name, no address, no hometown, no county of residence, no patient ID number. To say otherwise is clearly false and misleads the public."

The Center for Reproductive Rights has persistently misrepresented the Oklahoma law, claiming that it requires doctors to provide information about where women live. These assertions are absolutely false.

As written, the new law requires that a report for each abortion be sent to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The questionnaire gathers demographic information including age, race, marital status and educational level and gathers information on the method of abortion used. Numerous states have similar reporting requirements, and the abortion industry collects and publishes similar information through annual surveys by the Guttmacher Institute (formerly the research arm of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America).

The new reporting form also asks for the reason the abortion is being sought. The reasons for the abortion listed on the questionnaire are adapted from the September 2005 report, "Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives" published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health by the Guttmacher Institute.

Contrary to claims of abortion activists, the new law actually protects a woman's privacy more extensively than current Oklahoma law. The current reporting form asks for the woman's county of residence. The new law, however, repeals the existing law and any identifying residential information has been eliminated in the new reporting form.

Reports gathered in Oklahoma's three abortion facilities would be submitted on a monthly basis to the Department of Health which will "ensure the security" of the reports. Further, reports may be "accessed only by specially authorized departmental personnel" who will not be able to identify the woman or know in which of Oklahoma's 77 counties she lives. The Department of Health will then produce an annual statistical analysis of the demographic information. Individual abortion reports will not be published.

"It is hoped that the information gathered will make it possible in the future to address some of the underlying societal problems, such as absence of child support or lack of childcare, which lead some women to seek abortions." Lauinger noted.

Abortion complications will also be reported under the new law. Abortion advocates frequently refer to abortion as being "safe, legal, and rare." However, very little data exist regarding abortion complications. When a lawsuit is filed over a botched abortion, there is typically an out-of-court settlement, so there is very little statistical data about the extent of the damage that abortion inflicts on women.

"Abortion is the most under-regulated, under-investigated, and under-researched procedure done on American women today, yet it is the most common and most potentially dangerous to their health and well-being," noted National Right to Life Director of State Legislation Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., in a September 29 release. "If a state can get a handle on the reasons women have abortions, it can lead to better programs that will make it easier for women to have their children rather than resort to abortion."

"Reducing the number of abortions is a goal that even abortion advocates claim to support. This legislation could help achieve that objective by identifying the problems that lead Oklahoma women to seek abortions. Important public-health benefits will be achieved by Oklahoma's Statistical Reporting of Abortions Act," Lauinger added.

The text of the law is available here: http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/2009-10bills/HB/HB1595_ENR.RTF.

The case is Davis v. W.A. Drew Edmondson.

Oklahomans For Life is the state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee. The National Right to Life Committee, the nation's largest pro-life group, is a federation of affiliates in all 50 states and 3,000 local chapters nationwide.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Oklahoma Politics category from October 2009.

Oklahoma Politics: September 2009 is the previous archive.

Oklahoma Politics: November 2009 is the next archive.

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