Graves, Rhodes Prepare Pro-Life Legislative Bills

By Knapschaefer, Johanna | THE JOURNAL RECORD, July 15, 1989 | Go to article overview

Graves, Rhodes Prepare Pro-Life Legislative Bills


Knapschaefer, Johanna, THE JOURNAL RECORD


While the Supreme Court ruling on abortion raised more questions than it answered, one thing is clear: states will now have the power to legislate conditions on when and where abortions are performed.

Already legislators who support the pro-life view, such as Rep. Bill Graves, R-Oklahoma City, and Sen. Frank Rhodes, R-Catoosa, are gearing up to introduce legislation restricting state-funded abortions.

"I plan to introduce a bill to try to make Oklahoma law as restrictive as Missouri's law," said Graves.

"I think the matter of abortion belongs to the states only because the U.S. is based on federalism."

The July 3 5-to-4 ruling in Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services upheld Missouri law, which bans abortions in public hospitals. It also lets Missouri require doctors to test the viability of a fetus believed to be at least 20 weeks old before an abortion can occur, although medical experts agree viability usually begins around the 23rd or 24th week of pregnancy. Graves said his legislation would most likely include a requirement for viability testing.

Anxious to set the pro-life crusade into motion, Graves sent a letter to Gov. Henry Bellmon Wednesday requesting inclusion of abortion on the agenda for the special legislative session that begins Aug. 14.

"Many Oklahomans believe no time should be wasted in saving the lives of unborn children," he wrote in the letter.

Sam Armstrong, Bellmon's press secretary said it is "highly unlikely" the governor would change the call for the special session, slated to focus on education, because he prefers waiting until the other three abortion cases are decided in the fall by the Supreme Court.

Bellmon is not expected to answer the request before next week since he is in South Carolina on business.

Meanwhile, Stan Engle, spokesman for Life Issues, a pro-life activist organization in Oklahoma City, said his organization plans to protest the governor and expects to circulate a petition if he refuses to consider abortion on Aug. 14.

Regardless of Bellmon's decision, Life Issues plans to rally at the state capitol on Aug. 14 at noon to give pro-lifers an opportunity to voice their concerns to the legislature. Engle expects more than 2,000 people to turn out for the event.

"We have received hundreds of calls from (pro-life) supporters since the Webster decision," he said.

Life Issues is supported by about 25 doctors, 4,000 citizens and 120 churches in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Statewide, Engle said about 16,000 people support the pro-life movement.

Although pro-choice activists argue legitimate studies indicate the rate of abortion, about 25 percent of all conceptions, has remained unchanged over the years, Graves doesn't believe that.

"There have been 25 million abortions since 1973," Graves said.

"That is a crime of the first degree," he said, comparing abortion to atrocities commited in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.

Graves, who favors overturning Roe vs. Wade, says the abortion problem actually began with the creation of the right to privacy in the 1965 Griswold vs. Connecticut case, which Graves said "invented the right of privacy." The landmark Supreme Court decision recognized that a married couple has a right of privacy that cannot be infringed upon by a state law making it a crime to use contraceptives. …

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