Republican Oklahoma State Senator Joseph Silk is sponsor of a bill calling for abortion providers to be viewed as murderers under state law but the legislation is now in limbo after his own party’s leaders refused to let it come to the floor.
Silk is sponsor of Senate Bill 1118. It includes very direct language.
“A person commits murder in the first degree when that person performs an abortion,” the bill states. It defines abortion as “the use or prescription of any instrument, medicine, drug or any other substance, or device to intentionally kill an unborn human being.”
Silk says it’s time for pro-life leaders to go after what they really want.
“We need to call it what it is, which is murder, the pre-meditated intentional killing of a human being, and then treat it as such. We’re trying to change the conversation from the typical pro-life rhetoric to actually being pro-life and getting justice for all these murdered children,” said Silk.
He believes pro-life lawmakers have spent way too long fighting at the margins in this debate.
“We’re essentially regulating abortion. Your typical pro-life bill, and I say pro-life in quotes, is ‘Hey, you can’t kill your baby with this instrument, but you can with this.’ If we as pro-lifers believe that abortion is murder, then those pro-life bills aren’t actually pro-life,” said Silk.
Silk says the public reaction in Oklahoma was overwhelmingly supportive.
“The vast majority of Oklahomans who heard about the bill and were active in contacting legislators and the Senate in particular were very, very excited about the bill because people are tired of hearing the pro-life rhetoric. Candidates say, ‘Yeah, I’m pro-life. We’re going to do what we can do.’ They don’t ever do anything,” said Silk.
He says the people loved the direct language.
“We have the most severe wording and the truth in that wording. People were excited to see that coming from the state government. We got huge public support for that bill,” said Silk.
But Senate Bill 1118 was blocked from state senate consideration earlier this month and will not be brought up again until next year at the earliest.
“Two members of leadership decided to block the bill and they did succeed in that despite my best efforts and some of my colleagues and other citizens of Oklahoma,” said Silk. “They blocked it and it did not get a hearing on the senate floor.”
Republicans control the Oklahoma state senate by a 39-9 margin, meaning GOP brass scuttled the bill. Silk says thus far he is not satisfied with the explanations given by party leaders.
“They never could give me an answer why they were blocking it. They just kept saying, ‘It’s a dangerous vote. It’s going to put members in a hard place. It goes too far.’ Things like that,” said Silk.
Silk’s appeal to their pro-life position also fell on deaf ears and muted voices.
“Then I would ask them, ‘You believe that life begins at conception?’ They would obviously say, ‘Absolutely.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s what this bill says,’ and then there’d just be blank stares,” said Silk.
Silk plans to re-introduce the bill in the 2017 session and knows it could face the same fate. He admits the language to Senate Bill 1118 was changed somewhat to accommodate issues raised in a committee hearing. Silk hopes lawmakers will look at it differently once they’ve had time to soak in the language.
Another argument against the bill was that the courts will strike it down and the U.S. Supreme Court is very unlikely to overturn Roe v. Wade under its current leadership.
That doesn’t deter Silk at all. In fact, he relishes a legal fight at the heart of the abortion debate.
“We need to attack the issue directly. Life begins at conception and abortion is murder. Until we start doing that, [the Supreme Court is] never going to be forced to overturn that ruling,” said Silk.
He says activists have changed court precedent many times in the past, most notably with respect to slavery. He also says the Supreme Court defied it’s own logic on the definition of marriage in just two years.
“Just three years ago, they said marriage shall be defined by the states. After continuous pounding, what did they do this last year? They defined it for us,” said Silk. “Sure, some bills may get struck down, but eventually you’re going to push the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Silk.