Anti-abortion, pro-choice rallies at Oklahoma Capitol draw large crowds
A crowd of more than 1,000 gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday to support a bill abolishing abortion in Oklahoma with no exceptions.
Senate Bill 13 would treat abortion as a homicide and require Oklahoma to ignore the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade that legalized the practice nearly 50 years ago.
Conservative religious groups organized Tuesday's event, dubbed "Abolition Day," and attendees sang, held signs and listened to speakers and videos before heading into the Capitol to talk with state lawmakers.
“You can't have bills that end in any way with ‘and then you can kill the baby,’” said Leslie Hanks, who drove in from Colorado and considers herself an abolitionist rather than a pro-life advocate. “That is moral insanity. It is double-mindedness. The secular pro-life movement is not getting the job done.”
Amy Kelly, who attended the rally with her Tecumseh-based church, said she believes the dialogue around abortion needs to focus on “breaking down barriers.”
“If you are having problems … and abortion is something you are thinking about, look at these people here willing to hold your hand,” Kelly said. “We want to say ‘Hey, you don’t have to go through this alone.’”
Sen. Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow, authored the bill and attended the rally. He told the crowd there was still work to be done but he was encouraged by the support.
A separate, smaller, pro-choice rally was organized in opposition to Abolition Day, which similarly had signs, a speaker and a mission to speak with lawmakers.
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There were times of tension between the two groups throughout the morning, and state troopers were brought in as extra security.
Susan Braselton, one of the pro-choice rally organizers and a coordinator of Clinic Escorts in Tulsa, said any push for Oklahoma to ignore an established court decision or deny a woman's right to choose is a problem.
“I don’t trust my legislators to do the right thing,” Braselton said. “I want them to know that there are other people who have other opinions besides those loud people up there."
Silk introduced the same legislation last year, but it was never heard in committee. Without the support of Senate leadership, the bill faces parallel challenges this year.
Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat said he agrees with abolishing abortion, but that SB 13 is "fatally flawed."
"I am absolutely committed to challenging the current precedent, but I want to do it in such a way that it's consistent with the U.S. Constitution, and I believe that SB 13 is much more focused on quasi-secession rather than saving human lives," Treat, R-Oklahoma City, previously told The Oklahoman.
The bill has not been scheduled to be heard in committee during the 2020 session.
House Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, recently pointed to the state's infant and maternal mortality rate, saying it "doesn't really reflect that pro-life attitude" promoted by many.
"The difference between being pro-life and pro-birth is how do you treat those mothers once those babies are born?" Bennett said. "And in Oklahoma, we've got a lot of work to do."