Reproductive Freedom Fighters Get Bittersweet Victory

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A local judge recently ruled a draconian 2009 anti-abortion law is unconstitutional, but for pro-choice advocates it’s a bittersweet victory.

Oklahoma County District Judge Dan Owens ruled that legislators violated the state constitution when they placed multiple laws in a single piece of legislation. The ruling struck down a law that made it illegal for doctors to perform abortions on women based on the gender of the fetus.

It also struck down a law requiring doctors to submit detailed and personal information about their patients to the state Health Department. That information, supposedly protecting the identities of individual women, would be published on a web site.

It’s important to note that Owens ruled only on a technical aspect of the legislation and not the substance of the bill. Legislators have simply introduced separate bills this session covering the same topics and those bills will probably pass the Republican-dominated legislature. This is what makes it a bittersweet victory for people who support reproductive freedom for women.

The law that makes it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion based on the fetus’s gender is simply superfluous, political calculation. As I wrote in a 2009 commentary in the Oklahoma Gazette:

Are Oklahoma women really seeking abortions based on gender? Where is the evidence? How would a doctor determine that gender was the reason for a particular abortion unless a woman volunteered the information?

The other law is a way to intimidate and harass women seeking abortions. It would require doctors to give the state Health Department personal information about their patients, including race, age, marital status and the county in which the abortion was performed. Women would have to give the reason for the abortion as well, and this information would go on a web site costing the state an estimated $280,000 to create and then even more money to maintain.

The anti-abortion crowd argues the law is simply a way to study the abortion issue.

Some pro-choice advocates have argued women from small towns might get identified if the bill makes it into law. Women seeking abortions here would be faced with a barrage of questions about their personal life, knowing this information would be made public, even if their identities are protected. The law could also be viewed as a first step to publicly disclose the identities of women who get abortions here.

Another law requiring women receive an ultrasound before an abortion was earlier struck down by a judge because of the single subject rule. The law would have also required medical staff to describe the ultrasound in a detailed way to women. A new ultrasound bill has been filed this session.

As I’ve written many times before, all this anti-abortion legislation really targets poor women, who might not be able to afford to travel outside Oklahoma for an abortion procedure.

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Maddow On Inhofe

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Brady Campaign Cites State’s ‘Weak Gun Laws’

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(Check out the discussion about this post on Daily Kos.)

The next time you hear some local Second Amendment distorter talk about the government’s efforts to put more restrictions on guns, remember this: Oklahoma has some of the least restrictive weapon laws in the nation.

According to a new report by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates for stricter gun laws, the Oklahoma ranks second to last among states when it comes to laws governing gun sales and use.

According to the Brady Campaign:

Oklahoma has weak gun laws that help feed the illegal gun market and allow the sale of guns without background checks according to the Brady Campaign. In the organization’s 2009 state scorecards released for all 50 states, Oklahoma tied for second to last place in America – earning just two points out of a total of 100.

According to government figures, Oklahoma also has the country's fourteenth highest percentage of crime guns recovered that were originally purchased within the state. The Brady Campaign relates this “homegrown” gun violence to the lack of gun laws in the state and nationally.

Oklahoma would have made a complete zero on the Brady Campaign scorecard, but it doesn’t allow students to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. Gun advocates here have been pushing such a proposal in recent years.

The Brady Campaign is named after James Brady, who was shot along with former President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Brady, who served as Reagan’s press secretary, was permanently injured in the attack.

On its site, the organization says it tries to the stop the National Rifle Association “from running roughshod over our nation 's gun laws.”

The news over the state’s ranking was greeted with cheers by the Oklahoma Rifle Association, according to a story in the Tulsa World. The ORA’s executive director told The World it’s a “Second Amendment” issue.

But, as I’ve written before, the Second Amendment simply does not guarantee unrestricted use of weapons. Here’s the amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Note how the second clause of the sentence, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” is dependent on the first clause, “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” The amendment deals with select militias when it pertains to weapons.

Even if you read “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” as non-dependent on the first clause, it still does not specify that there should be no oversight over the registration much less the use of weapons.

(I'm well aware of the U.S. Supreme Court Heller decision. I'm unsure it solves the issue.)

The point is that there are too many crimes committed with guns in this country and Oklahoma. We need to get illegal guns off the streets, and we need sensible gun laws and registration rules to help reduce violent crime.

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