The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday in a bipartisan vote approved a bill from President Pro Tempore Greg Treat that would put a legislative referendum on the 2020 ballot to let voters decide whether to restrict the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ability to construe a right to an abortion in the state constitution.
Senate Bill 195 passed on a 40-8 vote and now heads to the House for consideration.
“The Oklahoma Constitution contains no language that guarantees a right to an abortion, yet the Oklahoma Supreme Court has crept dangerously closer to inventing such a right,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “Recently, Planned Parenthood and others have strategically challenged pro-life legislation in state courts in the hope that the Oklahoma Supreme Court will find a right to an abortion in the state constitution. By allowing these cases to advance in state court rather than federal court, the Oklahoma Supreme Court is implicitly showing their willingness to make up out of whole cloth a right to an abortion in the state Constitution where none exists. We cannot allow that to happen as it would be a tremendous setback for the pro-life movement. Senate Bill 195 gives the people of Oklahoma the ability to loudly proclaim their strong desire to protect the sanctity of life.”
A previous version of SB 195 contained “trigger” language that would have made enforceable Oklahoma’s prohibition on abortion in the event the central holding of Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey were overturned by the federal courts, or if the U.S. Constitution were amended to protect life. Due to the findings of those two federal court cases, Oklahoma’s prohibition on abortion – which has existed since 1910 – is unenforceable.
“I still hope and pray that one day soon the U.S. Supreme Court will correct the judicial mistake of the past that legalized abortion in Roe versus Wade and Planned Parenthood versus Casey. But it’s far more likely, in the short-term, that the Oklahoma Supreme Court finds an invented right to an abortion in the state constitution than the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe or Casey,” Treat said.
Treat said he expects to pursue the “trigger” language in another bill at some point in the future.