OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma -- On Friday, a judge extended a temporary restraining order on an Oklahoma abortion law -- despite a popular rider tacked onto the legislation intended to loosen current state restrictions on cockfighting.
The law, passed in May, would have compelled Oklahoma doctors, under penalty of criminal prosecution, to post details of each abortion they perform online, including details like the patient's age, marital status, race, financial condition, education level, and the total number of her previous pregnancies, though not her name or gender.
"This is a profound intrusion on women's privacy and a waste of taxpayers' money," said some high-falutin' attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights somewhere back East, probably in one of them "blue states," most likely New York.
Accordingly, to help ensure its passage, lawmakers tacked a highly popular rider onto the bill that would have narrowed the definition of "cockfighting" to mean only fights in which competing roosters are fitted with regulation trunks and gloves; it also included language that would have lifted a previous ban on moving chickens across state lines to get to cockfights on the other side.
Oklahoma is conservative both socially and politically; this is the second year in a row that the Legislature has attempted to attach cockfighting riders to some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.
In extending the restraining order, Oklahoma County District Judge Penny Coope put the measure on hold, protecting women's privacy issues even while effectively choking the chicken fighting claws' clause, at least until February 19.
"Having the government pass a law that violates the state constitution by imposing obstacles on women in Oklahoma is nothing to crow about," said Coope, "but having a rider like this one tacked onto it is a real wakeup call."
She noted the "very real danger" that, even without patients' names, nosy people might still use the information posted online to identify which of their neighbors had received abortions.
Some who challenge this view note that anyone could see an unwed 17-year-old Oklahoma girl who is neither a mother nor pregnant, for instance, would already be drawing considerable suspicion to herself anyway, even without the benefit of online resources.
The law's co-sponsor, Sen. Rod Stewart (R), said the key to understanding his controversial legislation lies in realizing the fundamental difference that exists between chickens and human beings.
"A chicken has no rights," he said. "It can't speak, so it certainly can't demand rights. It can't stand up for itself in a court of law, or defend its rights. In fact, chickens would be totally helpless unless we gave them rights by passing laws for them.
"Sounds almost like a human fetus, right?" he asked, pausing for emphasis.
"Of course it does!" he continued. "But here's the difference: I'm pro-life, and Oklahoma is a conservative state. We are a pro-life state, and I believe it's important public policy to stand on the side of sanctity of life.
"But we're talking about a chicken here!" he exclaimed. "A chicken!! Can't you see?? Honestly, do you think anybody really gives a shit about a chicken?"
"Actually, I do," I said, lowering my trousers as I dropped a steaming veggie loaf in his 10-piece bucket of extra crispy.