Recently we have seen a trend in state legislative bodies to propose putting the question of abortion before a vote of the people. In Oklahoma, for example, a pending resolution would allow the people to vote whether to add this key language to the state constitution: “Any person found guilty of performing an abortion…shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not less than one (1) year nor more than three (3) years in the custody of the Department of Corrections.”
This concept sounds appealing on its face, but upon closer inspection, it is fraught with political and philosophical problems. In short, it is immoral, unconstitutional, and practically very dangerous. Here are the problems:
Loophole: The resolution contains this loophole: “nor shall any provision of this [state] Constitution be construed to preclude, invalidate or in any way limit, a statute that…regulates abortion…” Since the proposed constitutional amendment cannot “preclude” or “invalidate” existing state statutes which legalize abortion, this loophole is, in effect, a self-destruct mechanism which renders the amendment meaningless.
Inequality: The resolution proposes to punish only those who perform abortions. All other parties to the crime, including parents, grandparents, friends, boyfriends, and pimps, who agitate, coerce, manipulate, or provide funds and material support for abortion would not be subject to criminal prosecution. Furthermore, the penalty in one resolution is limited to that commensurate with manslaughter. Another resolution sets the penalty at only one to three years. Both God and the U.S. Constitution require equal protection and equal justice under the law.
Wrong Mechanism: It is the legislature’s job to codify the criminal code. This does not require a vote of the people. Oklahoma is a representative republic, not a direct democracy. The legislature should use a regular bill to modify and clarify existing statutes. We do not need a statewide vote to adjust criminal statutes that are already on the books.
Cop-out: The proposed resolution allows legislators to shirk their duty and pass the buck off to the people.
Waste of Political Capital: Why expend the time, energy, and political capital to get the resolution passed, only to need another vote of the people? If the legislature has the votes to pass the resolution, then it has the votes to change the criminal code and establish justice directly and immediately.
Murder is not a Matter of Opinion: We should not allow a vote of the people to decide whether or not murder by abortion is legal. To submit this resolution to a vote of the people would be to communicate that we get to decide by vote whether murder by abortion is right or wrong. We should not be deciding absolute right and wrong by popular vote. This would be akin to asking Louisiana plantation owners in 1850 to vote on whether chattel slavery was right or wrong.
Risk Insurmountable Set-back: If the vote were to go the wrong way, it could be a blow from which we would not recover for generations. The humanists and media would spin it as, “The People have spoken. They want legal abortion. Case closed.” Because the concept of “consent of the governed” has been redefined to mean “whatever the governed want,” popular perception might be that the vote in favor of abortion is therefore binding upon future officials who want to abolish abortion.
In conclusion, there may be other ways to abolish abortion, but a fundamental choice is between changing state statutes and changing the state constitution. We must think critically to determine the proper route, the simplest route, the least risky, and the route most likely to be successful. We do not need to amend the Oklahoma Constitution which already guarantees the right to life. Article 2 § 2 says, “All persons have the inherent right to life…” On top of that, we have a great working definition of “human being,” which “includes an unborn child” in the state homicide code. Amending the state constitution is both unneeded and risky. God did not poll the Israelites before commanding, “You shall not murder.” Josiah did not take a vote of the people before tearing down the altars of child sacrifice.
Statutory reform is the simplest fix with the fewest steps and least chance of failure. The legislature can use statutory reform to make state law agree with God and our constitutions. Statutory reform would eliminate the complex extra step of a referendum which could go the wrong way and be nearly impossible to correct in our lifetimes.
Let us not decide right and wrong by popular vote. Rather, we should call upon our officials to do their duty before God to punish evildoers and protect the innocent.