As the American colonies gained their independence from England, our nation’s Founding Fathers were concerned about freedom. They wanted to create governments at both the national and state levels that would maintain and promote order, yet protect the rights of their citizens. From this dilemma sprung the concept of checks and balances, a mechanism through which the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial) have ways to overrule each other, preventing any one branch from becoming too powerful.
There are innumerable examples of how checks and balances function to protect our freedoms. For example, the Oklahoma state legislature recently passed a law requiring women seeking an abortion first to have an ultrasound. However, an Oklahoma district court dismissed the law as unconstitutional before it went into effect.
A number of states have laws that require women to have an ultrasound before having an abortion. In three states (Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi), doctors are required to offer women the opportunity to see the image. However, according to the New York Times, Oklahoma's legislature attempted to require “the doctor or technician… set up the ultrasound monitor where the woman could see it and then talk her through the procedure, describing the heart, limbs and internal organs.
The woman would be allowed to “avert her eyes,” the article said.
Those that oppose choice in the Oklahoma state legislature have vowed to re-write and pass the law yet again. “Before that mother goes through the procedure, we believe it is positive public policy to give her as much information as possible about that baby,” said Senator Todd Lamb (R – OK), “She might just change her mind and, who knows, that baby could be a future Nobel Prize winner.” Many pro-choice advocates disagree, glad that "women in Oklahoma who will be spared...a law that questions their autonomy and threatens their health and dignity."
So goes an example of our great system at work. In the case of reproductive rights, the battle is far from over. However, in the state of Oklahoma, where 96% percent of counties do not even have an abortion provider, the court system will play a significant role alongside the legislature in determining the nature of women's access to reproductive choice.