The gloves came off in Oklahoma this week, as conservative lawmakers put forward three separate but equally aggressive pieces of legislation.
First, the state legislature approved a bill criminalizing the act of providing an abortion in Oklahoma. Then lawmakers introduced a Senate bill that, among other things, declares a state of emergency over the state’s school restroom debate. Finally, lawmakers introduced a bill that calls for the impeachment of president Barack Obama, attorney general Loretta Lynch and secretary of education John King, each for “[exceeding] his or her constitutional authority.”
The abortion bill was swiftly vetoed by Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin (R), who has still signed 18 bills restricting abortion access in the state since 2011, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR). This one faced strong resistance from advocacy groups, and was unlikely to stand up in court.
The bathroom bill, a response to Obama’s threat to withhold education funding from states with restrictive policies, is also unlikely to stick. Already, LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom Oklahoma has said they will sue Oklahoma if it passes, and North Carolina is currently fighting a Department of Justice lawsuit over a similar bill it passed in March.
But the clearest message to the White House is the Oklahoma legislature’s call to impeach Obama, Lynch, King, and essentially anyone else involved in demanding transgender rights.
For now, Oklahoma doesn’t have the means to back up its lawmakers’ moxie. The state’s budget shortfall has grown to $1.3 billion in 2016 from $900 million a year earlier, leaving little cushion for lawsuits. If Oklahoma does end up in a costly legal fight, Fallin has shown she’s not afraid to cut healthcare and education funding to balance the budget.
That should make these bills unpalatable even to Oklahomans. While the state’s voters are mixed on outlawing abortion, according to SoonerPoll, more than half of them don’t want to should the cost of additional spending on education. They may have to, if lawmakers stay focused on abortion clinics and school bathrooms instead of women’s health care and students’ textbooks.