Kern

Kern Proposal Denies Oklahoma Women Reproductive Rights


Sally Show Begins

State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) will try to restrict reproductive rights even further for Oklahoma women this coming legislative session.

Image of state Rep. Sally Kern

House Bill 1004, filed by Kern, would require doctors who perform abortions to have clinical privileges at a hospital within 30 miles where the procedure was performed. This is yet another measure to restrict abortion and other reproductive services.

As reported earlier by The Practical Progressive, this legislation would prevent out-of-state doctors, who are licensed in Oklahoma, from performing the procedures. This has been a common practice in some states.

Last legislative session, the state passed laws restricting abortion in the state. The restrictions included the requirement minors get parental consent before they have an abortion and state funding of anti-choice information centers. The legislature also passed laws requiring physicians tell women the fetus feels pain, which is not proven scientifically. A new law also requires doctors to offer women a sonogram view of the fetus before an abortion.

There was also a political effort last year to restrict access to Plan B, the emergency contraceptive for women. Plan B has been approved for over-the-counter sales by the Federal Drug Administration.

State legislators of both major political parties will continue to impose their religious views on Oklahoma women by restricting their access to reproductive services until people speak up. This issue marginalizes women in our overall culture, and especially in conservative Oklahoma, and denies women freedom to make decisions about their own bodies.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, an organization that tracks reproductive rights: “In 2000, 96% of Oklahoma counties had no abortion provider. 56% of Oklahoma women lived in these counties. In the South census region, where Oklahoma is located, 32% of women having abortions traveled at least 50 miles, and 10% traveled more than 100 miles.”

No rational person favors the use of abortion for standard birth control, but religious ideologues also want to restrict access to basic birth control as well. Sex education and easy access to birth control will bring down the unwanted-pregnancy rate, but the ideologues—primarily Christian extremists—have a larger agenda.

It’s important to note this will probably not be the only measure this upcoming session trying to restrict reproductive rights in Oklahoma. Kern represents an area in northwest Oklahoma City and Bethany. She and other Christian extremists may well introduce more legislation denying women the ability to control what happens to their bodies.

Abortion is obviously a controversial issue for some Christians, but no one is forced to have an abortion in this country. If you’re against abortion, don’t have one. This is about state Christian fundamentalists demanding everyone view the world through their narrow-minded religious filter. This is about religious intrusion in government. This is about politically moderate and liberal Christians (is “liberal Christian” an oxymoron these days?) allowing right-wing Christian extremists to hijack their religion on a couple of cultural wedge issues like abortion and gay rights.

Do a majority of Oklahoma woman want to give up their reproductive rights. No. But many women are afraid to speak up in a state that marginalizes anyone who dissents from the right-wing, religious agenda.

I wrote this on March 4, 2006 on Okie Funk:

"Not one Oklahoma politician has come out forcefully and presented counter legislation that would stop the religious freaks from embarrassing our state, damaging our economy by branding us with the 'ignorant hick' logo, and turning our schools into quasi-churches.

"Not one Oklahoma politician in this state has stepped up and said 'enough is enough,' championing the cause of intellectualism and rationalism and logic and medical science, the hallmarks of modernity and enlightenment.

"Not one Oklahoma politician has said figuratively and loudly to our college graduates now leaving the state in droves that the fight for intellectual freedom can be waged even in one of the reddest of red states."

TABOR Redux?

A bill (SB 24) filed by state Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid) would limit the growth of state spending to the previous year’s spending plus five percent.

Sounds like a TABOR hybrid, and you can expect similar measures this coming session.

TABOR, or the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, is the idea that the growth of state spending should be limited to the previous year’s spending plus an increase based on a formula tied to population growth and the inflation rate. An initiative petition drive to place the issue as a constitutional amendment on the ballot here was declared invalid by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Oklahoma, which lags far behind in education funding in the country, simply can’t allow itself to be tied to budget measures that restrict it from taking care of its structural problems. For example, the state has had one of the lowest per student spending rates in the nation for years. It often has the lowest or near the lowest teacher salaries in the nation as well.

It’s virtually impossible to increase taxes without a vote of the people in Oklahoma, and the legislature has been reducing taxes lately, not raising them. If the state has extra money to wisely and prudently invest in improving the state, then it should do so. This is just common sense, not ideology.

Report Criticizes TABOR Petition Drive



Progressives Were Right About TABOR

An Oklahoma Supreme Court report severely criticizing an outside group for its tactics in gathering signatures for the failed TABOR petition several months ago brings up the question again of Oklahoma’s ideologically conservative and recalcitrant leadership.

Image from oldamericancentury.org

As many of us warned months ago, the group, National Voter Outreach, probably violated rules governing initiative drives by employing out-of-state signature gatherers. But conservative mouthpiece The Daily Oklahoman told us on its editorial page to withhold our criticisms and let the issue come to a vote of the people. The court’s report said the group employed 60 out-of-state workers. You must be an Oklahoma resident to collect signatures for a state initiative petition drive.

Progressives also warned how the petition workers often distorted the TABOR “story” or lied or withheld information about the impact of the measure in Colorado when they approached people. In essence, paid operatives from outside Oklahoma came into the state and tried to swindle voters. To its credit, the court stopped them.

TABOR, or the so-called Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights, is the idea that states need a constitutional amendment to reduce spending. TABOR would require that the growth of state spending become tied to a formula related solely to population growth and the inflation rate.

A state that passed a TABOR amendment, Colorado, recently voted to rescind it because it had decimated the quality of life in the state through cuts in education, health care, and road maintenance.

The report issued this week was scathing in is criticisms of NVO, according to news reports.

Yet the larger question remains: Why did it take so long for the power structure to oppose TABOR? Business bigwigs in the state—executives from Kerr McGee, Devon, and Chesapeake, for example—eventually filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the petition. The Oklahoman, in a rare break with extreme GOP ideology, then began editorializing against the petition.

The power structure in this state, if Oklahoma is to thrive, needs to become more open-minded to ideas and positions from progressives. We were exactly right about TABOR, but don’t count on the right-wingers to admit their mistakes or their own complicity in the issue. Look at the Iraq debacle.

Another question looms about what whether the upcoming legislature will pass a TABOR-like bill cutting funding to education and not allowing the state to catch up from its position as a state possessing one of the lowest per student funding rates in the nation. The House has a majority of Republicans, and the Senate is equally divided between the two major parties.

Could a TABOR bill make it through?

Senate Democrats Must Save State

Oklahoma Senate leaders have decided to share power now that the legislative body is divided equally between Democrats and Republicans. As lieutenant governor, Jari Askins, a Democrat, will cast any tie breaking votes if needed.

The question for most progressives is what will happen to the kooky, religious-driven legislation the House passes and sends to the Senate. State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) is still in the House, for example, and she or other religious ideologues may well bring up the intelligent design issue again. Intelligent design proponents want to make Oklahoma students study creationism in schools under the guise of a “science” that argues an intelligent designer (or, in their view, the Christian God) created the world. These ID proponents are right-wing, Christian extremists who hide their real interests behind their fake science in order to dumb down Oklahoma students to their own intelligence level.

Will Senate Democrats fight the religious fanatics on this issue and others? This may well shape the state’s economic development for years to come. Radical religious legislation mandating intelligent design and prayer in school and outlawing abortion will only make the state’s residents seem even more narrow-minded as political moderates and progressives prevail nationally. Who but religious extremists would want to raise children here? What types of businesses would want to locate here? The obvious disparity between new Democratic control of the federal legislative branch of government and Oklahoma’s right-wing political nutcases—from Kern to U.S. Sen. James Inhofe—will hurt the state immeasurably. It’s up to the Senate Democrats to save the state from itself in 2007.

Where Are Oklahoma’s Intellectual Freedom Fighters?



The Sally Kern Cult Club

A bill that will allow neocreationism to be taught in Oklahoma schools has passed through the House without major dissent. This is extremely discouraging news for our state.

Satirical Bush and intelligent design poster

Not one Oklahoma politician has come out forcefully and presented counter legislation that would stop the religious freaks from embarrassing our state, damaging our economy by branding us with the “ignorant hick” logo, and turning our schools into quasi-churches.

Not one Oklahoma politician in this state has stepped up and said “enough is enough,” championing the cause of intellectualism and rationalism and logic and medical science, the hallmarks of modernity and enlightenment.

Not one Oklahoma politician has said figuratively and loudly to our college graduates now leaving the state in droves that the fight for intellectual freedom can be waged even in one of the reddest of red states.

Here is the bottom line: State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City) and a few other right-wing politicians, including some Democrats, are on a Christian crusade to ensure we bow down to their narrow-minded, medieval worldviews. Her legislation, House Bill 2107, would allow teachers to present intelligent design “theory,” or neocreationism, in courses dealing with “biological or chemical origins of life.”

The Okie theocrats are emboldened by a presidential administration that sanctions religious intrusion in government institutions.

If the bill, which passed on a lopsided 77-10 vote, makes it all the way through the legislature and is signed into law, many Oklahoma students will be taught creationism instead of evolution and scientific principles. It is that simple.

Kern says the bill does not address religion, but everyone knows its intention is to challenge evolution with a “scientific” version of the Biblical creation story. Kern has to distort and lie to get the bill passed for legal and political reasons. She lies and distorts because her own religious views apparently allow deceitfulness and thus immorality in evangelizing. In my view, this immoral evangelizing makes Kern’s brand of religion a cult.

One Democrat who voted in favor of the bill said that if legislators voted against the measure, “…people will see this vote as a vote for evolution and against God,” according to a story in The Daily Oklahoman.

Intelligent design theory, or neocreationism, which is advanced only by fundamentalist Christians, argues the natural world is so complicated it had to be created by a designer, or, wink, wink, the Christian God. Evolution makes no claims about religion. It argues the natural world, as we can observe it, has evolved or changed over time. Evolutionary science remains the foundation of modern medical science and the scientific principle.

(Check out the excellent cover article, “Holy War,” in this week’s Oklahoma Gazette. The article gives an overview of the issue of religious intrusion in Oklahoma’s government institutions.)

University of California Professor Robert Bellah, the noted sociologist of religions, recently said, “It’s as if the Scopes trial is never over—we’re back in the 1920s. It’s unbelievable. And, again, it’s so depressing because you could not find anything like this in any other advanced country in the world. What has happened in this country?”

Well, what has happened in Oklahoma is that not enough intellectuals (professors, doctors, teachers, writers, corporate managers, medical professionals, lawyers, etc.) have the guts to stand up for what is right and moral and life affirming.

I ask those enlightened Oklahoma people who are sitting this out on the sidelines: When will it be too late to speak up? What are you waiting for?

(At least check out the Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education site and sign the online petition.)

Bush Should Be Impeached
Okie Funk keeps it local, but on occasion it behooves us to speak out on a national topic. This is one such occasion.
Salon.com has an excellent article on the growing movement in this country to impeach President George Bush. He has committed major impeachable offenses at least three times. 1. He lied the country into a war we have now lost at the expense of thousands upon thousands of innocent lives and billions of dollars. This is the most previous offense a president can commit. 2. He sanctioned the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bayin violation of America laws and the Geneva Conventions 3. He ordered illegal wiretapping of American citizens.

Oldamericancentury.org poster

These are serious, major offenses that threaten the democratic structure of county. As I and others have argued for months now, there must be some type of reconciliation, some type of reckoning, for Bush’s lies and illegal actions or our country could be operated by totalitarian governments in the future.

For some Republicans, especially the ultra-rich and the Christian fundamentalists, Bush’s disregard for the law might seem convenient now, but political tides do change. Once this disregard for law is embedded in the country’s political structure what we will have is one junta after another running the country through illegal executive directives without any congressional checks and balances.

It is really quite serious. In fact, it may be too late.
In a recent meeting of impeachment advocates in New York, there was much talk about why to impeach but little talk about how to impeach. That is because the political climate right now in Washington, D.C. is not conducive to it. Yet that does not mean we should get discouraged and drop the idea. If we give up we lose the democratic ideals and vision that have made America up until now the great, world bastion of hope and freedom.

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