Oklahoma House Committee passes a bill that endangers child welfare. February 24, 2015  •  12:00 pm

Contact: Troy Stevenson
Executive Director – Freedom Oklahoma
tstevenson@theequalitynetwork.org | (405) 802-8229
 
In an extremely contentious committee hearing the Children, Youth, and Family Services Committee voted in a 5 to 3 vote to send HB 1598 to the full House for consideration. There was a divisive bipartisan debate that resulted in amendments being added to remove the ability of therapists to induce vomiting, expose children to pornography, or use touch therapy – a form of child molestation.
 
HB 1598 removes ability of the state of Oklahoma to oversee and regulate therapists in the realm of so-called “conversion therapy.” This creates a special right for an extremely controversial practice, when well-evidenced and effective medial and therapeutic practices are heavily regulated.  The Oklahoma Chapters of the National Association of Social Workers, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Counseling Association, the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma, The American Psychological Association, the Oklahoma Nurses Association have joined with Freedom Oklahoma, The ACLU of Oklahoma and other advocates in condemning this dangerous legislation. 
 
The committee – Chaired by Rep. Sally Kern – broke from protocol, and only called for testimony from Rep. Kern’s hand picked advocates, some brought in from out of state organizations that profit from this abusive practice.
 
The vote did not break along party lines, with members of both parties expressing extreme concern about the effects if this were to become law. Rep. Ownbey (R), Rep. Young (D), and Rep. Sherrer (D) all cast votes against this legislation.
 
The following statement can be attributed to Freedom Oklahoma executive director, Troy Stevenson:
 
“For a legislative body to have to clarify that they have stripped the ability of licensed therapists to uses unnecessary electroshock therapy, induced vomiting, exposure to pornography, and child molestation out of their bill – means that the original intent of the bill was to allow just that. What else will it allow? This is a dangerous piece of legislation that needs to be stopped in its tracks. The state has a duty to protect children from abuse, not to put them in harms way. We would like to thank Rep. Ownbey, Rep. Young, and Rep. Sherrer for taking a stand for the protection of Oklahoma children.”
 
The following statement can be attributed to ACLU of Oklahoma executive director, Ryan Kiesel:
 
“This legislation is an unprecedented and dangerous blank check to abuse the children of Oklahoma. It’s one thing for Rep. Kern to host her sideshow in her own committee, it will be a different story all together if Speaker Jeff Hickman legitimizes this bill by granting it a hearing on the House Floor. If the entire House even considers this bill, they will be sending a message to the entire world that the Oklahoma House of Representatives is more interested in making a political point than it is in protecting the children of Oklahoma.” 
 
The following statement can be attributed to State Representative Emily Virgin:
 
“It is shocking that in the face of overwhelming condemnation – from all credible medial and psychological professional associations in the state – that my colleagues would vote yes on this harmful legislation.”
 
The following statement can be attributed to State Representative Jason Dunnington:
 
“It’s frightening that some leaders of our state would support a bill that puts children at risk when they are at their most vulnerable state. I commend my colleague, Rep. Ownbey; the only Republican who voted to protect children from abuse.”
 
Background:
 
http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf_pdf/2015-16%20INT/hB/HB1598%20INT.PDF


This Story: In an extremely contentious committee hearing the Children, Youth, and Family Services Committee voted in a 5 to 3 vote to send HB 1598 to the full House for consideration. There was a divisive bipartisan debate that resulted in amendments being added to remove the ability of therapists to induce vomiting, expose children to pornography, or use touch therapy – a form of child molestation.
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