One of the most divisive public issues in America is still legal abortion.
People who oppose abortion " for whatever reason " won't give an inch.
Their elected or self-appointed representatives have chipped away at this safe and legal procedure, successfully limiting the availability, access, authority and often the discussion of abortion or even contraception.
They have enjoyed tremendous success in the current presidential administration, in Congress and in many statehouses, including Oklahoma's, where precious little opposition to restricting abortion or access to contraception can be found.
On the other side, people who support abortion rights " and I am one of them " won't willingly give an inch, either. We and our representatives view attempts to restrict access to abortion, for example, as a barely hidden foothold on the path toward banning safe and legal abortion. For every inch "they" have gained, "we" have lost more than miles.
I, for one, have grown weary of "us" vs. "them." The phrase "finding common ground" has been used by some who want to break the gridlock on this conflict-ridden issue, and it is appealing. But, sadly, it is not yet possible, at least in our state.
Looking for commonality, at least two members of the Oklahoma Legislature introduced bills this session, but by the time you read this, the measures may all be dead.
Three bills in the state Senate intended to bring compassion, reason and fairness to women's health were swept to the dustbin of the Senate Rules Committee, meant to die there rather than go before our elected representatives for debate or vote.
Unwillingness by the Senate leadership to hear one measure is particularly outrageous to me.
Sen. Andrew Rice of Oklahoma City introduced a bill called the "Compassionate Assistance for Rape Emergencies Act of 2007." The measure, Senate Bill 105, would require health-care facilities providing medical care to rape victims to offer emergency contraception as a treatment option. One would think that differences of opinion could be set aside here in favor of our common concern about the victim of a crime.
Can we not agree that a woman who has been raped deserves all the help we, as an enlightened and compassionate society, can offer? Apparently not.
Senate Bill 555, which also lies dormant on the floor of the manhandled Rules Committee, generously acknowledges the desire of some pharmacists not to fill prescriptions for contraceptives or over-the-counter emergency contraception if doing so violates their personal code of morality. (This acknowledgment alone is a compromise.)
The contraceptive equity measure, Senate Bill 104, would require insurance companies to cover contraceptives at the same rate they cover other prescriptions, like Viagra. Not so fast, says the state Senate. We're less interested in fairness than we are in re-election.
In the state House, Rep. Al Lindley, also of Oklahoma City, has introduced a measure, House Bill 1534, ensuring that any state-funded sex education class includes medically accurate information, believing, as Lindley does, that sound, scientific information leads to informed, responsible decision-making, even in teenagers.
I'll bet we can find something Oklahomans can agree about on this hot-button issue. Yet, moving forward to prevent unintended pregnancies and protecting women and their health isn't as important to the Republican leadership in the Legislature as keeping the majority status.
So far, on this issue, in this session, there's not much common ground to be found. - Pam Fleischaker
Fleischaker, former Oklahoma Gazette associate editor, has served as a commentary writer since 1987.