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New state question would make abortion care a constitutional right

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A newly filed petition hopes to change the state’s constitution, giving Oklahomans legal access to abortion care.

State Question 828 states that every “individual has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom,” which includes abortion care.

“The state shall not penalize, prosecute, or otherwise take adverse action against an individual” seeking care, said the petition’s language.

Oklahoma lawmakers banned all abortions in the state earlier this year, making it a felony for a doctor to perform the procedure.

“The Oklahoma state legislature passed the most restrictive abortion ban in the entire country,” said Mickey Dollens, Democrat state representative from OKC. “And Oklahomans are more in the middle.”

Dollens did not help write the petition, but he does support it.

The Democrat said he also supports the current petition system, which allows state questions to pass with a simple majority vote.

Sen. Warren Hamilton, Republican from McCurtain, said earlier this month that he would push for a change to the petition system. Hamilton said rural communities do not have a say in the vote, given the simple majority rule, so he wants the threshold to be 66%.

Hamilton was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Dollens, on the other hand, sees the petition system as a way for Oklahomans to pass bills that the legislature won’t.

“This is why we have Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana, criminal justice reform, a whole bunch of different reforms that have recently happened thanks to the power of direct democracy,” said Dollens.

State Question 828 still needs a date to begin collecting signatures. That decision is in the hands of the Secretary of State. Once the date is set, the proponents of SQ828 will have 90 days to complete the signature requirement and submit the petition.

Jed Green, an organizer for State Question 788, the petition to legalize medical marijuana, said that the timeline for 828 looks like collections will take place around the beginning of 2023.

He said that could be a problem.

“The spring in the fall surrounding outdoor festivals are the optimal time of the year to gather signatures,” said Green. “The timeliness of 828 is going to is going to kind of raise the bar on difficulty for them a little bit.”

Another challenge for 828 is the amount of signatures needed, said Green.

The new petition is a proposed change to the state’s constitution, which means it needs to meet 15% of the total number of voters from November’s election.

The magic number is a little over 172,000.

Green said patience is needed when trying to get a petition on the ballot. SQ788 took him three attempts.

But the local organizer said there is clearly a desire by Oklahomans to put this issue to a vote.

“There’s no denying an issue whose time has come,” said Green. “If this attempt of 828 is not successful, I would not be surprised if there are continued attempts to resolve the issue.”

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