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Abortion abolitionists vie for seats in Legislature

Carmen Forman The Oklahoman
Jason Martin carries an anti-abortion sign in February in support of Senate Bill 13 that would abolish abortion in Oklahoma. Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman file

At least nine candidates for state legislative seats are seeking to criminalize abortion in Oklahoma.

After years of advocating unsuccessfully for Oklahoma’s Legislature to hear a bill to abolish abortion — asking the state to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade in the process — the self-described “abolitionists” are seeking to have their voices heard in a different way.

Many of the abortion abolitionist candidates are challenging incumbent Republicans who oppose abortion. Some are single-issue candidates focused solely on outlawing abortion, but some say abolishing abortion is only one of many issues they discuss with voters.

Abolitionist vs. anti-abortion

Abortion abolitionists would have all abortions classified as murder. In Oklahoma, abortions are prohibited after 20 weeks, except in extreme cases.

Tamya Cox-Touré, regional director of public policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said abortion abolitionists and most anti-abortion Republicans are cut from the same cloth. There is little difference in what abortion abolitionists are trying to accomplish and what Republicans are doing by continuously chipping away at abortion access, she said.

Unseating an incumbent legislator is usually difficult. But the task may be even harder for abortion abolitionist candidates because they are largely viewed as a fringe political group. Many political and religious leaders who oppose abortion have criticized the legislation they support.

Abortion abolitionist Christian Ford, 24, is seeking the Republican nomination in Senate District 28 — the seat Smalley vacated earlier this year when he resigned from the Legislature.

Ignoring Roe v. Wade

Smalley said he doesn’t think the abolitionist candidates stand a chance this election cycle. They view “pro-life” candidates, even those who have always opposed abortion, as bad, said the former state senator.

The legislation they support calls for Oklahoma to secede from the union, but once Silk is out of the Legislature, abortion abolitionists won’t have a champion anymore, Smalley said.

Critics of the abortion abolitionist movement say SB 13 is more about seceding from the union than it is about saving lives because the legislation would have the state ignore the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized the practice of abortion.

Free The States, which supports abolishing abortion and the language in SB 13, endorsed nine Oklahoma legislative candidates that they say would author or co-author legislation for the “total and immediate abolition of abortion,” a lobbyist for the group said.

Those candidates and their Republican primary challengers are:

House District 15

Angie Brinlee* vs. Rep. Randy Randleman, R-Eufaula, in the Republican primary

House District 17

Shannon Rowell* vs. Rep. Jim Grego, R-Wilburton, in the Republican primary

House District 18

Brenda Angel* vs. Rep. David Smith, R-McAlester vs. Brecken Wagner

House District 61

Kenny Bob Tapp* vs. Rep. Kenton Patzkowsky, R-Balko

House District 83

Robert McMaster* vs. Eric Roberts

Senate District 7

Warren Hamilton* vs. Rep. Larry Boggs, R-Red Oak, v. Kevin Woody

Senate District 13

Carisa Roberson* vs. Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada

Senate District 28

Christian Ford* vs. Rep. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole, v. Mike Haines

Senate District 43

Kaity Keith* vs. Rep. Paul Scott, R-Duncan v. Jessica Garvin

*abortion abolitionist candidate