The last few days I've been reminicing about the 2007 legislative session here in the great state of Oklahoma.
In case you didn' t know, Oklahomans had an important victory against SB 714. This bill would prohibit state employees or facilities, including agencies that receive state funding from performing or "encouraging" a woman to have an abortion.
Additionally, this bill would prohibit publicly funded hospitals (including OUHSC) from providing women the option of a therapeutic abortion, one that would protect the health of the mother or terminate a pregnancy that has a genetic anomaly. An example of this situation might be a woman who, when diagnosed with cervical cancer, finds that she is in the early stage of pregnancy and must decide a course of action to either treat her cancer or continue with the pregnancy. Or, after genetic counseling early on in pregnancy, a woman is informed that the fetus has a genetic defect that would result in death of the fetus before or immediately after birth.
SO many people worked so hard to try and stop the movement of this bill. From physicians to lobbyists, activists to individuals who were mixed choice, we all knew how harmful this bill was to the women of our state.
We all have memorable moments...wedding day...first child being born...etc., but one of the most profound moments of my life began with a phone call the Monday after SB 714 passed the Senate and was headed to the Governor's desk.
After the vote (34 Aye, 14 Nay) we all felt like we've been kicked in the teeth. We immediately began our campaign to call the Governor to veto SB 714. Activists began recruiting and encouraging anyone and everyone (pro-choice and mixed choice) we could find to contact the Governor's office.
At 8 a.m. on Monday, April 16th, I received a phone call I wasn't expecting with a very criptic request. One of our physician friends called me and asked for me to contact as many "white coats" (meaning docs, nurses, physician assistants, etc.) as possible and ask them to meet at the capitol at 11 a.m. on Wednesday..."ask them to bring their coats...not wear them."
I started calling docs and it never occured to me to ask why. Call after call I began thinking, could a veto of an anti-choice bill really be possible...in OKLAHOMA? My mind began racing, I wouldn't allow myself to think about a veto just yet. NO WAY.
On Wednesday, April 18th, the day the Supreme Court upheld the so-called "partial birth" abortion ban, we began our journey to the capitol. As I walked into the Governor's office I was shocked at the number of physicians standing and waiting for the Governor's press conference at 11:30 a.m.
Still I wouldn't allow myself to believe. It couldn't be possible. As more physicians filed in the press room, they were told to stand behind the Governor when he appeared at the podium. The press room was filled with reporters, on lookers and physicians.
Here's the funny thing, I still wouldn't allow myself to believe the Governor was going to veto SB 714 until I saw the whites of his eyes and the words leaving his lips.
So as the physicians stood behind the Governor, he finally said the one word I've been waiting to hear. (http://www.newsok.com/video/ - go to April 18th, 2007 - Henry Vetos Abortion Bill)
He vetoed SB 714.
What a moment. A victory for women and a historic moment for reproductive rights in Oklahoma. It was a moment I'll never forget...we got a freaking veto.
Ah, let me savor the feeling for another second....or two...which was about the amount of time we had before a veto override was attempted, the next day. Two more attempts to override the Governor's veto failed. It was a wild ride and we fought a heck of a fight.
Then things got down and dirty...
What happened next was nothing more than tragic, but that'll take another posting some other time.