Last week Liberty on Tap hosted an informational gathering for SQ 788, a ballot initiative measure to legalize medical cannabis in Oklahoma. The vote for SQ 788 will take place on June 26, 2018. One of our speakers, a member of the Vote Yes on SQ 788 PAC, was Shawn Jenkins.
Shawn, a veteran of the U.S. Army, and his wife Lauren are native Oklahomans. They grow a garden, keep a flock of hens, and are proud parents to four beautiful children.
At our gathering, Shawn presented his family’s personal testimony describing how and why he became a relentless advocate for the cause of legalizing medical cannabis in Oklahoma. He told us that while pregnant with their son Carver, he and his wife were given the news that their unborn baby had a rare brain malformation called schizencephaly. In Carver’s case, 80% of his brain tissue is missing. Serious symptoms of this birth defect can be effectively treated with cannabis which he went on to describe. By the way, Lauren was 18 weeks pregnant at the time of this news.
That number got my attention. You see, just days before, the U.S. Senate voted down a measure that would have criminalized nearly all abortions after 20 weeks. It called for potential prison terms and/or fines for doctors performing abortions with the usual exceptions of the life of the mother or cases of rape or incest. Without getting into the details and merits of this particular failed legislation, I only bring it up because of that defining point in pregnancy that appears to have broad consensus — 20 weeks. There’s something about that 20 week mark that in many people’s minds, a baby becomes more of a baby. But before that 20 week mark, our culture, generally speaking, accepts abortion especially for non-flippant reasons such as birth defects and the like. According to many people’s personal standards, the law, and much of the medical community, parents are perfectly justified in terminating pregnancies before 20 weeks for medical reasons.
And so faced with the news about their son, Shawn and Lauren made an informed and brave choice. And that was only the beginning.
Their decision satisfies the pro-life community’s goal of pregnancies being carried to term. But they did not merely choose birth — they chose LIFE. And there’s a huge distinction between the two.
This is where it gets real.
Many of Carver’s conditions could be effectively treated with cannabis, but currently the Oklahoma government does not allow that. The State of Oklahoma discriminates against people like Carver. We who believe in the sanctity of life must work to change this!
Legalizing medical cannabis is a cause that the pro-life community should take up in a significant way.
PRO-LIFE means advocating for the weak, giving a voice to the voiceless, and defending the defenseless.
PRO-LIFE means bearing the burdens — physical, mental, emotional, financial — of the parents of these children who are on duty 24/7.
PRO-LIFE not only SAYS life begins at conception, but it also ACTS to protect lives after birth. So to be truly pro-life we must not only stand for birth, we must stand for sustaining LIFE! We should not sit on our hands while people suffer unnecessarily.
Shawn, along with others at the forefront of the effort in Oklahoma to bring legal medical cannabis into the realm of doctor supervised treatment, feels convicted that given his own life, intellect, and abilities, along with his son’s condition, to not fight for medical choice, specifically cannabis, would be cowardly and immoral.
I agree. It’s one thing to claim the pro-life label, hold a sign, attend a rally, or even pass out graphic photos and shout down young girls faced with a decision that could torment them for the rest of their lives.
It’s a whole other thing to personally serve as the vessel through which a precious life was awesomely and wonderfully made, birth that life, and then spend the subsequent years fighting like hell to preserve and sustain that life.
My resolve to fight alongside these parents just intensified.
(Note: Just to be clear, Mr. Jenkins NEVER alluded to any option other than life and efforts to sustain it in his talk. The connection made was purely my own having much to do with the timing of the recent failed legislation, the recent March for Life rallies, and the upcoming (tomorrow) Rose Day at the Capitol and how these events relate to this issue, specifically among those in the pro-life community.)