The Legislative Digest is your weekly look at the happenings of Oklahoma’s state legislature, upcoming bills and the terms to know.

Legislative Digest

SB 223, 224 and 225:
This collection of bills was authored by Nathan Dahm, who is ranked as the most conservative Senator in Oklahoma. The bills would prevent mandatory vaccinations and mask mandates, as well as make contact tracing purely voluntary. These bills were also written with a declaration of emergency for the “preservation of the public … health,” meaning they would take effect immediately upon passing.

Bill 223, concerning mandatory vaccinations, covers all vaccines, not just COVID-19 vaccines. It also includes schools in its list of entities unable to mandate vaccinations. Students and teachers returning in the fall could come back without having been vaccinated. This is on top of Oklahoma being one of only 15 states in the country that allows for parents to bypass vaccine requirements for their children for “personal reasons.”

The bills are being considered as Oklahoma is still in the thick of its COVID-19 outbreak. Daily new cases haven’t seen significant decline and are still well above where they sat for most of 2020. To think that now is the time to loosen our prevention methods is an affront to our public health. The bills will worsen the emergency that is actually being declared within the bills.

Luckily, these bills seem unlikely to pass. Republican Governor Kevin Stitt has espoused mask-skeptical talking points, but these bills seem too far for even him to sign. However, both the Senator and the Governor seem to have the same general solution for COVID-19: personal responsibility. Everyone just does what they think is best, and eventually it will go away. Neither seem willing to take any real legislative action to stop this deadly virus.

SB 495:
This bill attempts to make abortion illegal in almost all cases throughout the state of Oklahoma. Any pregnancy termination completed after fertilization would be legally considered a homicide, with exceptions only for coerced abortions and pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother.

Abortion restrictions like these are nothing new, of course, though this one is more extreme than most. It should go without saying that a woman ought to have control over her body, and that politicians concerned with the “sanctity of life” ought to be more concerned with the external factors that cause abortion, such as lack of contraception and reproductive education. However, the circumstances surrounding the authoring of this bill tell an unnerving tale about the near future of Oklahoma politics.

The bill’s author, Warren Hamilton, is a newly-elected far-right reactionary. In his press release on the bill, he calls abortion the “American holocaust.” Hamilton seems to acknowledge that similar bills — such as Alabama’s — have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, but still puts a stipulation in his bill to nullify any such rulings or future laws.

Hamilton’s campaign was also heavily supported by a cult-like right-wing group eerily named The Ekklesia of Oklahoma. Many of the members live together in a large house in Guthrie, OK. The group called for the resignation of both of Oklahoma’s Senators for failing to stand behind Trump. On a more local level, Ekklesia of Oklahoma actively supports ultra-right Oklahoma primary challengers like Hamilton, who narrowly won against a slightly less pro-life Republican. What’s scary is that these candidates, and others around the country, are winning.

The ideological slop that has been fed to the average Republican over the last five or so years is beginning to have its natural consequences. Moderate Republicans, derided as Republicans-In-Name-Only, are just as evil as Democrats, and must be replaced with warriors of truth and justice like Warren Hamilton. Some pity the so-called moderate Republicans for this regrettable shift, but it’s important to remember they encouraged the reactionary foment for as long as it benefited them.

Post Author: Justin Klopfer