OKLAHOMA CITY — A bill filed Thursday would let Oklahoma voters decide to legalize abortion, but supporters say there’s no chance it will see the light of day in the Legislature.
Lawmakers passed bills last session effectively making abortion illegal in Oklahoma.
House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, is the author of House Joint Resolution 1044, which would not require the governor’s signature if passed by both houses of the Legislature.
The measure proposes a constitutional amendment.
“Essentially, it places the right to access abortion care on the ballot,” Munson said.
She said letting Oklahomans vote on the issue is something she heard a lot about after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old ruling setting a national standard of abortion access, and left the issue up to the states.
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Following that ruling, Kansas voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have let that state’s Legislature restrict or ban abortion.
In Oklahoma, where the Legislature is overwhelmingly Republican, the bill to allow Oklahomans to vote on the question “is not going to go anywhere,” said Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City.
House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, is likely to run for governor in four years and doesn’t want to allow a vote to send the matter to a vote of people, Dollens said.
“He would be perceived by his base as being pro choice,” Dollens said.
McCall said he has no doubt that multiple bills will be filed on both sides of the abortion debate this legislative session.
“I have been 100% pro-life both personally, and in my voting record, during my entire time as a member of the Legislature, and I will continue to be in the future,” said McCall.
“I don’t believe we should play politics with the lives of the unborn. I believe we should protect them.”
Dollens said, “It is not lost upon us (Democrats that) the ballot initiative question isn’t even going to receive so much as committee hearing.”
That lack of consideration could provide fuel to those who are planning to use the initiative petition process to get the measure on a ballot for state voters.
Munson said there are groups that are interested on putting the issue on the ballot as a state question.
She agreed with Dollens that if her measure is not taken up, that would get those groups more engaged.
In December, supporters of an initiative petition to legalize abortion withdrew their proposed constitutional amendment, State Question 828.
“We have decided to pause, recalibrate the timing of signature collection and build our coalition to increase our chance of getting the required signatures,” Roger Lee Coody-Rosamond, a supporter, said at the time.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit on abortion is pending in the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
“The suit right now has asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to find there is a right to an abortion in the Oklahoma Constitution and therefore, invalidate the abortion bans filed and passed last year,” said Tamya Cox-Toure, co chair of the Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice, one of the plaintiffs.
Should the court find for the plaintiffs, a state question would not be needed, she said.