Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Morality and Political Courage

Note: This message about SB 714 is from ODP Faith Outreach Committee Chairman Jeff Hamilton, an Oklahoma City minister and former state legislator.

SB 714 has produced considerable controversy and misunderstanding. As an ordained minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a former member of the Oklahoma Legislature, I wish to share my take on the issues.

First, there are legislators and theologians who feel that human freedom and individual conscience are dangerous entities. Those of this kinship feel that they must squelch freedom and conscience whenever it makes them feel uncomfortable. The most notable outrage of this mentality can be seen in the horrific actions of the President of the United States and the Congress when they wrote special legislation restricting medical compassion and the spirit of common sense in the Schiavo case. I perceive the same horrific mentality present in SB 714. The Governor's veto was morally right.

Second, there are legislators and theologians who disdain women in general and low income women in particular. The attitude evinced by them is known as patriarchy. It is common place in the Bible and asserts that women deserve to suffer, especially when sexuality is at stake. These legislators and theologians celebrate female suffering: a woman who is married cannot be raped because she is subject to her husband. Sound familiar? Therefore, restrict a poor woman's right to a medically safe abortion, for she is not much above the level of chattel. That a teacher named Jesus abrogated that point of view is lost on some theologians and legislators. The Governor was morally right in vetoing SB 714.

Finally, there are few theologians and legislators who are trained in the field of medicine; few, if any, have emptied bed pans or tended to the butchery of a botched backroom abortion. But pay that no mind if you are a member of the Oklahoma Legislature or if you fashion yourself a religious ideologue for you can feel free to practice medicine without a smidgen of training. In case you have forgotten, practicing medicine without a license is still illegal. The Governor was morally right in vetoing SB 714.

Those legislators who sustained the veto, then, have, in my view, a deeper morality on their side and a profound sense of political courage.

-- Jeff Hamilton, M.Div.

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