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Sooners for Life hosts Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford to discuss life ‘post-Roe v. Wade,’ Senate Bill 612

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James Lankford

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford speaking at the Oklahoma Memorial Union during the Sooners for life event April 18.

Sooners for Life hosted Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) Monday afternoon in the Oklahoma Memorial Union to discuss what life would look like “post-Roe v. Wade” almost a week after a near-total abortion ban was signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

The hour-long discussion, led by the President of Students for Life of America Kristan Hawkins, was contextualized by Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which addresses a 2018 Mississippi law called the Gestational Age Act prohibiting all abortions, with few exceptions, after 15 weeks in the womb. In the context of Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s choice to have an abortion, the Supreme Court is working to decide whether Mississippi’s law is unconstitutional. 

Lankford said the Mississippi law is unconstitutional, as the prohibition of abortions after 15 weeks differs from Roe v. Wade’s definition of viability, which says that, in the first 12-week trimester, the pregnant woman and her attending physician can go through with an abortion. A fetus reaches viability in the third trimester, which is when a state may regulate abortions or prohibit them entirely. 

Hawkins said the Mississippi deposition could result in a new standard, and Lankford said he is hopeful that, based on the cases’ oral arguments, the Supreme Court will send it back to the states and say any standard the Supreme Court makes is arbitrary. If states set their standards, Oklahoma’s Senate Bill 612 — which would make any healthcare provider performing or attempting to perform an abortion guilty of a felony — would stand. 

As the U.S. awaits the Supreme Court decision, which is expected in the summer, Lankford said he hopes the decision will come in quickly, standards will be made clear and the states will get a chance to decide. 

Hawkins said she looks at the issue through a historical lens and mentioned the Reconstruction Era, which began in 1865. She said Black people had to wait 99 years to see their rights protected through the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, as an anti-abortion advocate, she hopes women don’t have to wait that long to make sure “every life is protected and welcome in life by law.”

“We can't wait 99 years to make sure we get this right. We can't do that, and I don't think there's anybody that, regardless of how they feel about abortion, if you talk to them about the 99 years … (it took to sign) the Civil Rights Act that ‘Yeah, that was a good thing. Jim Crow, that was great.’ … Everybody would say ‘That's an outrage.’ And so, we've got to prepare ourselves, and those who advocate for abortion, they also have to prepare beyond just fighting back to the media narrative.” 

Lankford said having men included in the conversation surrounding abortions is important, as “there’s a guy 100 percent of the time involved in” unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

“If I could be so bold as a man to say that this is a man problem, period right now,” Lankford said. “We have a lot of men getting on video games, pretending to be a man, and then walking into real life and not actually being a man. I'm just stunned at how few men are actually stepping up to be able to lead in our state.”

He said he is working toward engaging with legislation surrounding abortions to care for children and walk alongside their mothers. An example includes his desire to promote child support at conception, citing a bill introduced by Montana Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), which would allow pregnant moms to claim their Child Tax credit for their unborn children.

“I think, 50 years from now, we'll look back on this time to go ‘We did what,’ and it will seem so foreign to us,” Lankford said. “Just like women's suffrage, or just like calling people three-fifths of a man, or just like rounding up Japanese Americans and putting them into internment camps seems foreign to us now I think, fast forward 50 years from now, we’ll think ‘I can't believe there was a season in American life where we literally called children inconvenient and just destroyed them.'”

The passage of SB 612 was denounced by OU student groups who said the bill would be detrimental to women’s health, as they would have to travel to out-of-state abortion clinics to receive care. They also said that it will trigger a “witch hunt” across the state and drive out a significant number of doctors that don’t want to be targeted. 

Lankford told The Daily that this dialogue has continued for over 50 years. He said he didn’t see OU students’ reactions to the signing of SB 612 and was more so encouraged to speak about the ongoing issue with students.  

“We were already planning to be here already, and this is a dialogue (that) is happening all the time before that bill passed and the same after,” Lankford said.

Lankford also told The Daily that sex education should start in the home, not in schools. Currently, Oklahoma does not require schools to teach comprehensive sex education outside of instruction on HIV and AIDs prevention.

The primary purpose of the state’s required curriculum is to inform students about abstinence, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. Parents or guardians of students can also opt out of any sex education, including HIV and AIDS prevention. 

It is important to walk through the realities of sexually transmitted diseases and “things that are biological in human development,” Lankford said, but he sees education beyond this as a different threshold that falls under a sense of values. 

“If you talk about someone that's a teacher stepping into an area that's so incredibly personal, in that area, that makes it very, very difficult to be able to teach him,” Lankford said. “Though you may have a curriculum and to say ‘Teach this about sexually transmitted diseases and teach this about birth,’ or whatever it may be, your biases and your preferences are always going to come in this. So, the first thing is first for us as a state to say we don't have, as a state, a responsibility to teach every single moral issue to every single child. A family has that responsibility to be able to do that.”

News managing editor

Jillian Taylor is a journalism junior and news managing editor at The Daily. Previously, she served as a summer editor-in-chief, assistant news managing editor, news editor, senior culture reporter and senior news reporter.

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