Red State Dawn

If you really want to understand a political party’s actual agenda, it’s useful to take a look at jurisdictions where its lawmakers can basically do whatever they want. That’s what Irin Carmon does in a heart-wrenching essay at MSNBC by looking at the antichoice playground of Oklahoma, where conservative Republicans walk very tall.

She looks at the Sooner State and its abortion politics through the experience of an economically struggling couple (which already had three kids), Eric and Jessica Davis, who discovered their unborn child had a lethal abnormality. Thanks to the Oklahoma legislature’s enactment of a post-20-weeks abortion ban with no exceptions for such circumstances, they had to travel out of state to terminate a pregnancy the mother desperately wished she could have in conscience carried to term. And even then, thanks to Republican legislation in adjoining states, it was difficult, and may soon be impossible, for a couple like this one to find anywhere to obtain an abortion that could in no way be attributed to parental convenience or even to doubts about the “personhood” of the fetus.

Carmon’s main point is that in places like Oklahoma, the dominant GOP policymakers are entirely indifferent to any sort of nuance, and are following a strict party line aimed eventually at the prohibition of all abortions. The only limitation being placed on extremist abortion legislation is by a state judiciary in which past Democratic appointments have left a fading stamp. And in that respect, the state is a bit of a microcosm of the country, where Oklahoma’s laws are among those provoking an eventual Supreme Court review that could lead to a repudiation of the right to choose nationally.

So this story might not be so unusual soon:

The Davises, who are both unemployed and live on Jessica’s $700 a month in disability payments and food stamps, came home to unpaid bills. The electricity was slated to be turned off the next day. Eric sold off scrap metal he found to pay the bill, but there was no money left for gas and water.

Oklahoma law had barred Jessica from using state Medicaid to cover the cost, so the couple had borrowed some money from relatives to cover the $2,800 procedure. In total, the trip set them back $3,500. “It took everything we had so that our son would not suffer,” Jessica said.

“It was never something that I had to worry about-the politics,” she said. “I just let women make their own decisions. But I would hate for another woman to have to be in my position.”

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.