Oklahoma will have a new governor in 2019 when sitting governor Mary Fallin leaves office following her second term, the maximum allowed in Oklahoma. One of the candidates vying to be her replacement is former state Rep. Dan Fisher.
Fisher represented Oklahoma’s 60th District in the state legislature from 2012-2016 and has pastored in Oklahoma since 1983. Fisher’s campaign is unique for a number of reasons, but chiefly because of his rejection of the “pro-life” designation in favor of the term “abolitionist.”
He is getting the most media attention for his stance on abortion. A central part of his platform is a promise to immediately upon assuming office call a special session of the state legislature to outlaw abortion. In-state Republican leaders recently blocked a bill to classify abortion as first-degree murder. Fisher also says he will “ignore all court orders attempting to thwart the will of the people and advise Oklahoma officials to ignore any federal court orders” relating to abortion, according to The Oklahoman.
Republicans currently control the majority of statehouses and the U.S. Congress, but have not used that power to make significant pro-life advances, including repeatedly blocking bills that restrict abortion to 22 weeks of gestation, when studies find babies can feel pain, and refusing to spend political capital defunding Planned Parenthood. Frustration at this situation among the Republican base is helping fuel Fisher’s campaign.
This interview has been edited for length.
Q: Summarize your campaign, and the difference between your campaign and those of your competitors.
Dan Fisher: There is no political vagueness, no political correctness. We have principles that we believe very strongly in and we’re not ashamed to share those. We don’t shroud our convictions and our positions in political speak. All the planks in our platform are out there and open, and we believe in just telling the people what we’re about, and if they don’t like it, they’ll vote for someone else.
Q: Diagnose the problem of abortion in Oklahoma.
DF: [Abortion] has remained legal in Oklahoma for 44 years, going on 45, because people, by and large, are convinced that whatever the Supreme Court says is the final word. Obviously, we don’t believe that. First, we don’t believe that the Supreme Court had the constitutional authority to mandate to all 50 states that they have to allow the murder of the unborn. So, it remains because Oklahoma allows it to.
Secondly, most of the debate and struggle has ultimately ended up in the courts, and generally, federal judges are not going to rule against the home team, meaning [abortion] remains legal until some state somewhere stands up and says, “No.” [A right to abortion and judicial supremacy] betray the basic principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence, that the job of government is to secure life, liberty, and property. But liberty and property don’t mean a whole lot if you don’t secure life first.
Q: One of the interesting things about your campaign is that you’re not necessarily pro-life. How do you want to see the pro-life-pro-abortion dichotomy shift?
DF: I’d just like to see people be honest. Say what you are. I know that there are many people who believe that abortion is wrong and call themselves pro-life, and believe that’s a legitimate title. And for years, I have too. That was until I served in the legislature and discovered that for people in government, that’s a smokescreen. Personally, they might be against abortion, but they’re not going to pay any political price to see abortion come to an end.
To them, what pro-life means is you pass a few measures, put a few barricades out there to slow abortion down, but do nothing to end it. There are some who campaign as pro-life who actually fight against measures that move any faster than they want to move in ending abortion. When I came to that realization, I knew something was wrong there, and I realized abortion is something that should end, not be regulated. We don’t regulate murder. We stop it.
During the slavery debate in the nineteenth century, there were two groups of people who were against slavery: the anti-slavery group, and the abolitionists. The anti-slavery group thought slavery was wrong and should come to an end, they just wouldn’t lift a finger to do what was right. They certainly weren’t going to lose any blood or sweat or tears to do it.
Conversely, the abolitionists were willing to do what it took to end it even if it took them dying to do so. So, I would just love for people to step out and be honest, to say what they’re willing to do. When you say you’re pro-life, does that mean that you would be willing to end abortion and call it murder? That you really want to stop it, not just regulate it?
Incrementalism is the real problem here. The belief of many pro-lifers that you can incrementally end this evil. We’ve been incrementally ending it for 44 years, and what we have to show for it is 60 million dead babies, and about 200,000 of them killed here in good old, conservative Oklahoma.
Q: Should abortion be abolished in Oklahoma, what response do you expect from Washington DC, and should any federal entity act to enforce Roe v. Wade on Oklahoma, what do you think that confrontation would look like?
DF: Then-candidate [Donald] Trump signaled on a number of occasions during the campaign that he believed abortion should be decided in the states. He made that pretty clear. Since he was elected, and in his first year, he has over and over again implied, if not clearly stated, that many things the federal government does is within the purview of the states. I haven’t talked to President Trump and I wouldn’t venture to speak for him, but from everything that I’ve heard from him and everything that I’ve seen, I think he would be our friend.
Now, I do not believe that the federal government would be our friend; I certainly don’t believe the federal court system would be our friend. But I believe strongly that the question of abortion is a domestic, meaning within the state, question, and should be decided by the citizens of that state.
Now, let me be careful here. Citizens don’t have the right to decide that murder is okay. Murder is fundamentally wrong. So even if the citizens became so perverted that they decided murder is right, murder would still be wrong. But I believe that the states will have to stand.
Now, can I predict how that will look? No, I can’t. But we have a few things happening in our country right now that may tip the hat, and there are some things in our history that show what happens when states stand on principle. Wisconsin said “Absolutely not” to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. And they made it very well known that if a slave could make it to Wisconsin, they would be free; and they lived up to it.
There have been many other examples in history when states have stood up and said “No” when the federal government was wrong. I believe that a state must stand squarely and firmly on its principles and lets the chips fall where they may, and I would like to believe that reason and right would simply prevail.
Q: Regarding legal penalties, ectopic pregnancies, and things like that, what are the details of a bill of abolition that you would like to sign?
DF: The job of a physician is to preserve life, which makes it such an egregious contradiction when licensed physicians intentionally end life. In certain problem pregnancies, the doctor is faced with unpredictable and almost impossible situations. The doctor there has to try to save both lives, and sometimes, must allow nature to take its course [if the baby can’t be saved].
Now, we have a lot of medical abilities these days and a lot of knowhow that didn’t exist in 1973. For the most part, these problem pregnancies are incredibly rare, almost negligible in their occurrence, so generally, I consider those arguments spurious, and diversionary tactics to keep us away from the real issue and that is that the overwhelming majority of abortions are performed for one and only one reason: convenience.
As for penalties, I would want the Oklahoma legislature to put a bill on my desk that would state that abortion is murder and will be treated as such, and I would sign such a bill.
Q: Do you anticipate the legislature working with you to get that type of bill on your desk?
DF: I think so. The legislature has made numerous attempts [to do so], with very little good leadership from the governor and other leaders in both houses. There are legislators I personally know who believe the same thing I do, and I believe that some of them have already anticipated not just my run for governor but the need to put forward these kinds of measures.
Just last year, in the last session, a resolution passed in the Oklahoma house; now a resolution does not have the force of law, but it is an official statement from an elected body of the people; and the resolution declared that abortion is murder. Period. And that it should be treated as such. That passed the House. Now, again, that doesn’t have the force of law, but it is the official statement of the elected representatives of the citizens of Oklahoma. So I believe there is the will, given the right leadership to do such a thing.
Q: With state sovereignty being an important aspect of your campaign, inevitably, people are going to connect that with racism because of the history of the Civil War and all that. How do you respond to people whose minds would go that direction?
DF: Racism has nothing to do with state sovereignty and vice versa. Racism is an evil that should be rejected at all levels. We are equal. The Declaration of Independence makes that clear. We are created by God and have unalienable rights, but we’ve struggled through the years to secure those rights for certain people groups, and we’ve got bumps and fumbles along the way, but I would argue that we’ve done a fair job at working to reconcile that.
Having said that, state sovereignty has to do with the whole concept of government. Our founding documents say that our government is for the people to secure their rights. Government is not doling out rights. The people inherently have those rights and they organize governments to protect those rights, so government operates according to the consent of the governed. Therefore, the people are sovereign.
Unfortunately, we have lost that concept and we believe we have this all-encompassing, benevolent government who gives us the right to enjoy certain freedoms when they choose. It’s completely ridiculous. We fought an entire war of independence over that very idea.
So, sovereignty isn’t some wild-eyed, crazy, fringe concept. It’s the very birth principle of what we call our republic. To attach racism to that is just foolish. We need to get these ideas out here. We need to talk about them. Again, racism is deplorable and should be rejected at every level, but when we’re talking sovereignty, we’re simply talking about what is, and we’ve just been ignoring it.
Q: From the conservative side, there may be people who point out that Oklahoma, acting as a sovereign state, may very well abolish abortion, but states like California and Illinois, acting as sovereign states, likely won’t. Do you fear that taking the feds completely out of the issue may make it difficult to abolish abortion around the union?
DF: That’s a great question. Number one, it’s not the federal government’s job to be involved with this to begin with, so taking them out of it would imply we took something from them. No, they took something from us.
Number two, that’s the beauty of federalism. The citizens of a state, with official borders, an official capital, official legislature, determine what set of principles and philosophies they’re going to be governed by.
For instance, take Colorado. The citizens of Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana. I disagree, but I’m an Oklahoman. I’m not a Coloradan. I applaud the fact that Colorado flexed its sovereign muscles and said to the federal government, “the Constitution doesn’t give you the power to control drugs, that’s a power of the people.”
Q: Given your previous answer, what is your view of the Fourteenth Amendment as it relates to abortion? Many conservatives would say that the right to equal protection of the law is an explicit command for the federal government to protect American preborn babies from death.
DF: We need to remember the context of the Fourteenth Amendment. That was right after we, as a union, had abolished the horrible practice of slavery. The intention was to make certain that every person is given due process of the law.
Unfortunately, the Fourteenth Amendment has been misconstrued to give the federal government almost unlimited power to do whatever they believe is in the interest of how they define equality, and thus a whole doctrine has been implemented: the incorporation doctrine. You don’t find it in the Constitution, you have to read it into it. What is being done today is the Fourteenth Amendment is being taken out of context and being used for unlawful, immoral purposes.
Q: What do you say to people who quote Thomas Jefferson’s letter to Danbury Baptist Church, which talks about a separation of church and state, and imply that you are bringing down that wall?
DF: I concur with Jefferson, so I’m not trying to bring anything in that letter down. Again, context is everything. Remember that the Danbury Baptists in Connecticut thought that the federal government was going to create a national denomination. Jefferson was addressing that. Now, I don’t know everything that Jefferson personally thought; some things I’d agree with, and some things I wouldn’t. So I’m not defending or criticizing Jefferson in totality, but regarding this letter, yes, there definitely is a wall. It protects the church and religious liberty from government. One would have to take that letter and turn it upside down to read into it that the government needs to be protected from people of faith.
Q: Should you win in November, you’ll be confronted with more than just abortion. What other issues are your primary priorities?
DF: I believe that a culture which is capable of murdering the unborn is capable of any level of evil: Murdering old people, murdering people who have mental challenges, physical challenges, or just people who have political positions that aren’t popular. Such a culture may be capable of that given the right set of circumstances. So, abolishing abortion is the most important thing.
Next, you’ve got to have sovereign states to be able to deal with abortion, seeing as the federal government has seen fit to try to force it on us. But there are other issues and we’re using the abbreviation ASAP to represent those other issues. The A represents small government, it stands for audit everything. In Oklahoma, like in most states, you have corruption and government agencies that want to go rogue.
I believe smaller government is better government and the best government is that which is closest to the people, because it can hear from the people. Try getting a hold of the director of [Housing and Urban Development] in Washington DC. Oklahoma, like so many states, has bloated government which is wasting taxpayers’ money, and I would argue not only wasting it but stealing it from them in order to waste it.
So for us, the A stands for auditing all of the agencies and programs to find out all that’s going on. I’m for reducing the size of government down to its core functions and stop wasting the people’s money.
Another thing that’s very important to us is proper government. Going back to the Declaration, Jefferson and the other four members of his committee of five, point out that the primary function of government is to secure our unalienable rights, the most important of which are, of course, life, liberty, and property. That’s the core function of government. It’s not the core function of government to take care of us from our cradle to our graves, to force upon us government-mandated health insurance, to force us to do all number of things.
We want to see government do what it is supposed to do, get it out of what it’s not supposed to do, stop stealing from the people through forced taxation and then blowing it on corporate welfare and crony capitalism.