Oklahoma Republicans Just Passed a Law Forcing a Woman to Have Her Rapist's Baby

Photo credit: Alex Wong - Getty Images
Photo credit: Alex Wong - Getty Images

It's a testament to the lawlessness coursing through our body politic that the Oklahoma legislature just passed, and Governor Kevin Stitt just signed, what's very nearly an outright ban on abortion. There is an exception in cases where the procedure would save the life of the mother, but otherwise it's a blanket ban. If you are raped and get pregnant, Oklahoma Republicans want to force you to give birth. If you are the victim of incest, Oklahoma Republicans want to force you to give birth.

They have moved beyond the convoluted explanations around how "the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down" and gotten down to brass tacks. They do not care what happened to you or why, or what it will do to your life. If you were molested by an uncle, that's God's will. "The baby should not be liable for the sins of the father," said the bill's author in the Oklahoma House, Jim Olsen, while defending his proposal to force women to have their rapists' babies. There's usually some pseudoscience involved about the viability of fetuses early on, but as Governor Stitt made clear on signing the bill, it's mostly down to the fact that they feel they can do this right now.

As governor, I represent all four million Oklahomans, and they overwhelmingly support protecting life in the state of Oklahoma," Stitt said. "We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country. We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma."

"Attorney General John O'Connor and I know this bill will be challenged immediately by liberal activists from the coasts who always seem to want to come in and dictate and mandate and challenge our way of life here in the state of Oklahoma..."

One problem here is that abortion is a constitutionally protected right as determined by the United States Supreme Court nearly half a century ago. The current "way of life" in the state of Oklahoma—as it has been for 49 years—is that people there have the right to get an abortion, because Oklahoma is part of the United States, where the Constitution features a supremacy clause mandating that federal law take precedence over state statutes. It may now be the conventional wisdom that the current conservative majority on the Court will soon strike down Roe v. Wade, or at least deliver it a death by a thousand cuts, but multiple branches of the state government of Oklahoma have opted to openly defy federal law here. Oh, and by the way, that claim of "overwhelming support" is questionable as well, not that it matters when Stitt makes it clear that he's interested in being The Most Pro-Life Governor. Well, pro-fetus, anyway. The lives of women and girls don't seem to factor in very highly.

But while Oklahoma's law is unfathomably cruel, it is less lawless in a way than a lot of what we're seeing these days. The Texas abortion law, which also makes no exception for rape or incest, empowers legal-eagle bounty hunters to enforce a six-week abortion ban for personal profit, acknowledging in the process that the state does not have the power to enforce the statute under the United States Constitution. The idea is that while the government—which is charged with enforcing laws—cannot enforce this unconstitutional law, they can just round up a de facto posse to do it. It's a Wild West of paperwork. Except, just like in those vigilante days, many lives will be ruined amid the lawlessness.

And state-level Republicans are confident at least one of these routes will take them to the promised land, so long as their fellow travelers control the judicial system. Which they do. And they can be confident they won't pay much of a political price because the Democratic Party is peerless in its fecklessness. Where are the ads headlined, "Republicans Will Force You to Have Your Rapist's Baby"? They have the benefit of being true. And this will not stop with Oklahoma. It never stops on any issue.

I vividly remember a conversation with a couple of Socially Liberal/Fiscally Conservative women back in college who dismissed the idea that the Republicans they usually voted for would ever actually ban abortion. None of us even considered the possibility of forcing victims of incest to give birth. It's not just morally heinous—it sounds like political suicide. But we only have two political parties, and one of them has done a terrible job of pointing out, so that the public properly understands, that the other one is completely nuts. They've done an even worse job of contesting state and local elections, so the old white dudes passing these laws may well sit in gerrymandered districts they drew themselves, and where the only crime they can commit is to be insufficiently right-wing. That's democracy, baby.

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