Cover Story

State-level surge

"State-level surge" Continued...

Issue: "The wonder of life," Jan. 25, 2014

Changing attitudes, the adoption of term limits, and a pro-life sermon (see “Still-silent shepherds”) have changed Oklahoma’s legislature. Brian Crain now chairs a state Senate health committee, and it was a pro-life sermon he heard in his Tulsa Baptist church that led him to wonder, “At what point are we as Christians being co-conspirators by not doing anything?” Crain replaced a term-limited state senator who had been there 24 years. He tracked down Lauinger and told him he wanted to sponsor pro-life bills. Pro-life lawmakers gained a majority in the Oklahoma House in 2004 and the Senate in 2008. Pro-life bills soon followed.

Last year’s coverage of abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s trial in Philadelphia further exposed abortion’s seedy underbelly. His conviction on three counts of first-degree murder and sentence of life in prison without parole came after charges that he performed illegal abortions and killed patients under his care, including newborns killed after being born alive during attempted abortions. The revelations boosted the call for greater clinic regulation.

“They’ve been able to do things in secret for so long,” said pro-life Rep. Pam Peterson, the Oklahoma House of Representatives majority floor leader (and controller of the bill calendar). “Now the light is shining on them.”

AT MY FINAL STOP, Texas, the freshmen class of legislators includes pastors, a former NFL player, a nurse, an oil businessman, a financial investor, a neurosurgeon, a former Air Force fighter pilot, and a constitutional lawyer. They all came to Austin sharing a pro-life commitment.

FINDING A WAY: An abortion supporter (far left) protests at the capitol.
Ethan Gehrke/Vici Media Group
FINDING A WAY: An abortion supporter (far left) protests at the capitol.
The lawmakers began strategizing about pro-life bills before being sworn into office, but it was still a struggle to get measures up for a vote. Senior Republicans said the bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks, and thus protect children clearly capable of feeling pain, wasn’t a priority, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry called the legislators back for a special session last summer. The pro-life push was back on.

Abortion supporters stalked the Capitol wearing burnt orange shirts. Some sat in the hallways and cast spells. Some printed “wanted” posters with the faces of pro-life lawmakers and smuggled jars of feces and urine to throw at them. When pro-life lawmakers huddled in the Capitol rotunda to pray, abortion supporters surrounded them, leaned into the prayer group, and yelled directly into their ears.

“Hail Satan,” some chanted. While abortion backers cursed God, pro-life advocates sang “Amazing Grace.” Jonathan Stickland, the Texas House member who no longer has to fight for scraps, recalls, “There were times when I thought, ‘there are probably demons in this room.’”

FINDING A WAY: Stickland (left) and Klick (right) deliver blue and pink paper to Davis’ office.
Handout photo
FINDING A WAY: Stickland (left) and Klick (right) deliver blue and pink paper to Davis’ office.
Pink-shoed Wendy Davis, the filibustering abortion figurehead who is now campaigning to be governor of Texas, asked abortion supporters to send in stories she could read on the Senate floor. Stickland, whose wife during the legislative session miscarried 25 weeks into her pregnancy, spent a sleepless night trying to find a way to symbolize the voices of the babies who would never be able to tell their own stories. The next morning his staff drove to 14 paper stores and spent $850 to buy enough blue and pink paper to represent the roughly 80,000 babies aborted in Texas in 2011. Six people rolled the paper down to Davis’ office.

Rep. Stephanie Klick, a nurse turned legislator, displayed fetal models in her office and used them to discuss the issue with abortion backers. They told her the models were offensive. Klick replied, “A baby is offensive?”

Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, author of the preborn pain bill, spent 36 hours on the House floor defending the bill and beating back amendments offered to weaken it. Opponents, angry that a female lawmaker was the face of the bill, brought coat hangers and rape kits onto the House floor to suggest the bill would lead to back-alley abortions. Laubenberg countered by placing onto the speaker’s podium a pair of white baby shoes. 

COMMITMENT: Texas Rep. Jodie Laubenberg places a pair of infant shoes on the podium as she prepares to answer questions July 9.
Mike Stone/Reuters/Landov
COMMITMENT: Texas Rep. Jodie Laubenberg places a pair of infant shoes on the podium as she prepares to answer questions July 9.
Other pro-life female legislators silently surrounded Laubenberg as she answered volleys of hostile questions. “I knew God would prevail,” Laubenberg said: “I was on the side of life and the other side was death. It wasn’t my bill. It was God’s bill.”

The omnibus bill banning abortions after five months passed. It also requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and makes clinics follow FDA guidelines and the medical standards of ambulatory surgical centers. On the same July day, Gov. Perry signed the bill into law, Planned Parenthood announced the closing of three of its Texas centers.

After passing the measure, pro-life lawmakers walked out of the House chamber to yells. “Shame on you,” abortion supporters shouted. “Shame on you!”

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