By Tony Lauinger, State Chairman, Oklahomans For Life
A picture is worth a thousand words, and the one accompanying this article has a special history. The photo was taken following the National Right to Life Convention Banquet in June of 2012 in Washington, DC. In it appear, from left to right, National Right to Life Academy student Rebecca Bodman, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, Academy student Gabriela Weigel, and myself.
Governor Brownback was the featured speaker at the banquet that evening. Before his speech, he said to his dinner companions that Kansas was the state with the best pro-life laws. Mary Spaulding Balch, JD, National Right to Life’s Director of State Legislation, took polite exception, telling the Governor that Oklahoma actually was the state with the best pro-life laws. Governor Brownback, during his after-dinner speech, very magnanimously related this entire conversation to the convention attendees.
Back to the photo… Gabriela Weigel and Rebecca Bodman both were students at the time at Saint Gregory’s University in Oklahoma, and after the banquet, they playfully needled Governor Brownback about Oklahoma’s having been declared #1 in pro-life laws; he playfully reiterated his previous claim that Kansas was #1. This picture captured the conflicting claims.
Fast forward three years to consideration of National Right to Life’s new landmark legislation, the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act. Kansas, working closely with National Right to Life’s Mary Spaulding Balch, was first out of the gate with this critically important new pro-life bill. As Chairman of our Oklahoma affiliate of National Right to Life, I would like to salute Kansans for Life for the exceptionally effective job they did in blazing the trail. Kansans for Life Legislative Director Kathy Ostrowski, in particular, did magnificent work with the Kansas legislature, with Governor Brownback’s office, with the media, and with Mary Spaulding Balch to achieve enactment of the first-in-the-nation Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act. And Kathy was a great help to us here in Oklahoma.
Friendly rivalries among states can be beneficial in our efforts to defend the right to life. Friendly competition can spur us to greater commitment, longer hours, and deeper devotion to those we seek to protect. Learning from each other is also extremely beneficial. We Okies learned a lot from Kathy Ostrowski as Kansans for Life encountered various obstacles through this process. One state’s experiences can benefit others, and can spare us from having to “reinvent the wheel.”
Governor Brownback and his state of Kansas earned the distinction of being #1 in this instance, and we offer our sincere congratulations!
Absolutely indispensable to our efforts here in Oklahoma, on the Dismemberment bill, as on all other pro-life legislation for the past 30 years, is Mary’s invaluable assistance. As Director of State Legislation, Mary’s constant guidance, legal expertise, and never-failing wisdom are the reason Oklahoma has enacted most of its pro-life laws.
I would like to thank our Oklahoma state legislators for their overwhelming support for this groundbreaking law. Representative Pam Peterson and Senator Josh Brecheen, in particular, deserve our deep appreciation. And I’d like to express our sincere gratitude to Governor Mary Fallin, who signed our bill into law six days after Governor Brownback signed the Kansas law.
The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act has the potential to revolutionize the debate over abortion in our nation. It’s educational value is as important as its immediate life-preserving effect. In the long-term campaign to win the hearts and minds of the people on this most critical issue of our age, this legislation and the discussion it engenders, can open people’s eyes as nothing else can.
At the National Right to Life Convention a year from this summer, let us take a photograph featuring a representative of every state that has enacted this landmark law. Let us strive to make it a group so large that only a wide-angle lens can capture the assemblage.