Who would have thought after all these grim years of death and destruction fighting religious extremism in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans would be fighting the same war right here in Oklahoma?
There have been so many anti-abortion bills introduced in the state Legislature, along with a covenant marriage bill that at least has the potential to take away women's legal rights, it's almost impossible to keep track of the morass. The bottom line is the state's religious extremists are flooding the field with their narrow-minded agenda. They want to control women's bodies, dictate how people get married and ensure cultural power remains with men.
If you're an open-minded, modern-thinking woman who lives in this state, watch out.
After this upcoming legislative session, it may well be impossible for a woman to get an abortion in Oklahoma, and, under religious and cultural pressure, some women here could be brainwashed into entering into covenant marriages that might take away their right to escape from abusive husbands.
The eight anti-abortion bills introduced in the Legislature include state Rep. Mike Reynolds' bill that would ban most abortions in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark abortion case, Roe v. Wade; state Rep. Sally Kern's bill that could limit the number of doctors who can perform the procedure in the state; and Skye McNiel's bill that would ban the RU-486 abortion pill. A bill introduced by state Rep. John Wright would prohibit state employees from performing abortions unless there is a medical emergency and would prevent the state from funding counseling about abortion. Another bill by Reynolds would ban nontherapeutic research on embryos. All four legislators are Republicans.
The proposed bills come after last year's legislation restricting abortion in the state. What doctor will even perform the procedure in Oklahoma under this relentless legal harassment? Yet, as many health experts argue, the answer to reducing abortions has always been what the religious folks will not allow here: Easy access to birth control and thorough sex education in schools.
The covenant marriage bill, introduced by Wright, would allow people to enter into a marriage that could not be legally dissolved for 18 months unless for dire circumstances. If passed, some right-wing churches here probably will make it mandatory for their parishioners.
Our culture now constructs families, marriages and relationships in plural ways, including same-sex unions. The religious right wants to impose its narrow views on everyone. Its argument will be that covenant marriage will be a matter of choice, but what if the mega-church minister declines to marry people who won't enter into it? Young people, in particular, will be pressured. Oklahoma always has had high divorce rates. Do people really think they simply can mandate two 18-year-olds stay married under some religious principle and everything will be OK? Get real. - Kurt Hochenauer
Hochenauer is an English professor at the University of Central Oklahoma and author of the progressive blog Okie Funk: Notes From the Outback, www.okiefunk.com.