Activists Draw National Attention
A courageous fight for women’s reproductive rights and medical science is taking place in Oklahoma these days, and it has drawn national attention.
Gov. Brad Henry recently vetoed a draconian anti-abortion bill, Senate Bill 714, that micromanages health care for all Oklahomans by forcing the state’s teaching hospitals to ignore recognized medical procedures.
Twice, the bill’s proponents have tried to override the veto in the Oklahoma Senate. Twice, they have failed by the minuscule margin of one vote.
Under the bill, state employees, funds and institutions could not be used to perform abortion procedures. The proposed law, sponsored by state Sen. James Williamson (R-Tulsa), would not make exceptions for rape or incest. The state already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country.
The Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Osteopathic Association, and the Nurses' Association are against the bill because they say it violates sound medical decision making. These organizations do not take political positions on the abortion issue.
The medical organizations argue the bill could prohibit medical personnel from getting proper training in the state, which ultimately affects health care for all of us.
The bottom line is this: Those women in Oklahoma who have the money can easily obtain a safe, discreet abortion here or elsewhere. The state’s impoverished women would have to go through a lot of hassle.
Pamela Merritt, writing in the Broadsheet section of Salon.com, recently highlighted the struggle of pro-choice activists in Oklahoma and called it a “reproductive-rights victory.”
In a conference call discussing the Oklahoma abortion legislation, some state pro-choice activists talked about how the local medical community has rallied around defeating the measure, according to the article.
But Williamson has vowed to continue his override attempts.
Health Care For Okie Republicans Only?
If you’re not disturbed by an Oklahoma doctor’s statement that he will refuse to treat any legislator who voted against a recent corporate immunity measure, then you haven’t considered the overall implications.
Should doctors be allowed to refuse medical treatment based on political views? If so, then Democrats need to make their escape plans right now or find doctors that place care for their patients above getting a new boat.
Dr. Peter S. Hedberg, a surgeon in Durant, told the Associated Press he would not treat any legislator who voted against Senate Bill 507 unless it was a medical emergency. Hedberg said he could buy a “nice big boat,” according to the article, for what he pays in malpractice insurance. (No, I’m not making this up.) He urged other doctors to join him in denying care to legislators who voted against the bill.
There are many things wrong with this. Let’s focus on two. (1) It’s simply wrong for a doctor to deny medical care to someone because of different political beliefs. Hedberg uses the “emergency” qualification, of course, but many in the state’s medical community will or should be appalled by his remarks. Doctors who oppose Hedberg’s position need to speak up for the sake of health care in this state. Can we trust our doctors will give us their finest care if we differ from them politically? It works both ways. Maybe Democratic doctors should come out and assure people they will treat them regardless of their political beliefs. (2) The doctor never mentions insurance companies, which are reporting record profits these days. Insurance companies are given a free ride by those who support these GOP-sponsored corporate immunity acts that are popping up across the nation? Why?
Why not make malpractice insurance rates for doctors a separate issue from corporate lawsuit immunity? Everyone should support lower malpractice insurance rates for doctors and any law or measure that enhances medical science. But we need to protect individual rights as well. There is a real balance here.
Gov. Brad Henry vetoed the bill after it passed by a slim margin in the Oklahoma Senate along party lines, with most Democrats voting against the measure. I guess that means Hedberg won’t treat Henry either. Imagine a world in which a popular state governor, who was elected in a landslide vote, can’t get health care because of his political positions.
No one enjoys paying taxes, but they are inevitable in a civilized society. The Republican Party these days like to demonize taxes, but it has have proven itself recklessly irresponsible on a federal level when it comes to spending government money. Look at the budget deficit.
So Gov. Brad Henry has made yet another prudent and appropriate decision by delaying action on GOP-proposal that would accelerate tax cuts passed in 2006 and add additional cuts. Henry says he will wait until a final budget has been agreed upon before making a final decision on whether to sign the tax bill presented to him.
A potential major problem is that state revenues are not meeting earlier estimates, and that could open the state up for problems down the road.
“These projected stagnant revenues come at a time when the state is already
struggling to deal with billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities in the state teachers’
retirement system, as well as upholding commitments to raise teachers’ salaries, expand access to higher education, repair roads and bridges, and bolster the health care system,” according to the Alliance for Oklahoma’s Future.
What’s important here is that Oklahoma citizens get involved and look at what gets funded in this state. Too often, people just rely on the clichés or rhetoric of party politics to decide where to stand on an issue. But where is the money going? Who benefits the most by the tax cuts? Who gets to spend your tax dollars and on what programs?
Tats Or Not?
Why won’t the state just leave the tattoo industry alone? Why does it continue to hassle tattoo artists? Why doesn’t the state get big signs that say, “Do Not Enter If You Are Not A Conformist,” and place them on the state’s borders?
The state legalized tattoos last year. Oklahoma was the last state in the nation to do so.
But a couple of the regulations were so draconian and unconstitutional that most tattoo studios could not stay in business. One regulation, for example, required tattoo studio owners to purchase a $100,000 surety bond. Another regulation required studios to be at least 1,000 feet from a school, playground, or church.
Oklahoma County District Judge Dan Owens recently ruled the provisions were unconstitutional, but now the state health department wants to take the issue to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
This is a complete waste of taxpayer’s money and a typical, Okie spectacle. We supposedly legalize tattoos, but then we spend taxpayers’ money on trying to stop people from getting tattoos.
On the same day The Daily Oklahoman editorial page argued Gov. Brad Henry should veto state Rep. Randy “The Terrible” Terrill’s draconian illegal immigration bill, it carried a story about how U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe wants similar strict actions on a federal level.
The newspaper has consistently supported Inhofe despite the senator’s outlandish and bizarre statements about global warming, the Iraq occupation, and individual rights, and now it seems to contradict itself. The Inhofe story, of course carried no refutation or opposing views of the senator’s claims and supposedly it’s “news” not an endorsement. But did The Oklahoman interview anyone in the state who would argue against the tyrant Inhofe? No. We’re not allowed to speak in the state’s largest newspaper. Inhofe, meanwhile, gets to use the newspaper as his free, personal public relations firm.
The illegal immigration issue is an obvious political ploy by Inhofe who faces a tough re-election in 2008 no matter what the conservative pundits are saying about all his money and connections to oil companies. What’s the difference between a state bill and a federal bill that does the same thing? Well, this is something the great minds of the newspaper will never address honestly. Of course, they might say the illegal immigration issue is a federal issue, a point with which I agree, but they also clearly want to protect business and corporations which employ undocumented workers.
This is classic, contemporary GOP strategy: Whip up the base into a frenzy over some empty cultural wedge issue, and then lie, distort, contradict, and never look back. The Oklahoman perfected its style and sold its editorial soul during the Reagan years, and it has been lying on its editorial pages and in its news columns ever since.
The tyrant Inhofe is not only a beneficiary of this political strategy but also the GOP’s most vivid example of what type of lunatic such a strategy can produce. He is the head lunatic of all these GOP lunatics who, in their ignorance and hubris, want to accelerate the destruction of the planet.
The Oklahoman is directly responsible for the power of right-wing extremists here and their misguided views on illegal immigration, climate change, and other divisive issues. It could have been articulating moderate and intelligent positions about the illegal immigration issue for years, for example, but it’s been too busy supporting freaky extremists who will do its bidding—tax cuts for rich people and big corporations—here in the state and on the federal level.
The owners of the newspaper and those who carry their torch simply have no credibility, short of capitulation, about any issue that has been manipulated by the Republicans in recent years. They could say, “Hey, we were wrong before. Now we’re going to allow real debate and discussion in the newspaper about all the political issues of our time.” But they won’t.
Nonetheless, Okie Funk once again calls on the newspaper to renounce its closed-door editorial policy and allow for diverse views on its editorial pages and in its news columns. Okie Funk also calls on the newspaper to withdraw its support for Inhofe, who has made the state a laughingstock during the Bush administration.
But there is a larger issue at play. Do Oklahomans want to trade away their children’s futures for one man’s political career? Inhofe is a dangerous kook with corporate power, especially oil power, behind him. He argues on his campaign Web site that he is a man willing to stand up against the tide, but we all know he is the most public corporate sycophant and Bushbot in Oklahoma right now. Listen. Inhofe is ironic. Whatever he says, it’s just the opposite.
Inhofe is a man who will never in his life stand up for regular people and the truth. He is bought and paid for by big oil. He is a great embarrassment to this state. Why doesn’t he just go and work for Exxon or Chesapeake or Devon? He could be a main spokesperson for any of these companies.
How much money, how many residents, will this state never see because of Inhofe’s ego and his bizarre comments about the “hoax” of global warming? Billions of dollars? Millions of people?
People want change here. They rejected the creep Ernest Istook in 2006. They will reject the creep Inhofe in 2008. Istook and Inhofe are creeps in a pod.
When The Oklahoman disavows Inhofe’s political shenanigans, then we’ll know things can change in this place. Until then, it’s all just boring, contradictory static by a monopoly newspaper.
(Here are the citations for The Oklahoman’s articles: “Border line: Henry should nix immigration bill,” May 3, 2007, “Inhofe offers immigration legislation,” May 3, 2007. The links above will go dead in a few days.)