Embryos gain personhood in Oklahoma bill

This is not a personOklahoma, sometimes referred to as the “reddest” state in the union and the “buckle on the Bible belt,” is working hard to keep those titles. The Oklahoma Senate has approved a bill that sayspersonhood” begins at conception. The bill (SB 1433) will now go to the House, where it is expected to pass. Republican Governor Mary Fallin has not commented on the bill but has described herself as strongly “pro-life.”

The bill is modeled after a 1986 Missouri law (Webster v. Reproductive Health Services) which was ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. It provides embryos and fetuses “at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state.” The measure defines the terms “unborn child” and “unborn children” to “include all unborn children or the offspring of human beings from the moment of conception until birth at every stage of biological development.”

NewsOK reported the bill was debated for just two hours and noted:

The practical effect of the bill is open to question. Its author, Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said it’s merely a statement that Oklahoma is “pro-life.” He labeled as fear mongering contentions by opponents that it could lead to restrictions on abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research.

Opponents think the law is a lot more serious than a cursory pro-life statement. Doctors in the state are opposed to the bill because they fear it will jeopardize reproductive medicine and prohibit certain forms of contraception. Likewise, thoughtful individuals across the political spectrum oppose laws that infringe the rights and health of half the U.S. population and subjugate pregnant women to the well-being of a tiny cluster of cells. A law like this relegates women to the status of incubators, limiting their own “rights, privileges, and immunities,” their rights to self-determination, personal health care choices, and control of their own bodies. Imagine women being investigated by the police if they miscarry. Or doctors being charged as criminals for prescribing contraceptives. What would happen to both the patient and the doctor if she has a medical abortion? Would they both be guilty of murder? Would in vitro clinics and stem cell research become illegal? Should “preborn” children be counted in the census? Could taxpayers claim an exemption for a “preborn” child?

That the personhood movement would subjugate the lives of adult women, and girls of child-bearing age, to the well-being of mere embryos incapable of thought, feeling, or independent life defies reason. This is the 21st Century. Or at least it is in most parts of the country. Medical science has made huge strides in the last fifty years and millions of women and their families have benefited. That lawmakers — not just a few wingnuts, but lawmakers elected to represent everyone — would deliberately reject that progress and force an entire state back to the 1960s and before is alarming. Lack of contraception, more unwanted pregnancies, back-alley abortions, botched self-induced abortions, doctors being criminalized for doing what’s best for their patients. Why would any rational person want that?

Oklahoma SB 1433
Screenshot of Oklahoma SB 1433 - The Personhood Act

Original available as a .doc file on Oklahoma State Legislature website

22 comments

  1. I had heard about the Oklahoma bill from a commenter on my own blog, Herb Van Fleet. Herb lives in Tulsa, last I heard. It blows my mind. Excellent post, and love the poster. It is spot-on. I found the idea of naming fetuses as income tax dependents particularly intriguing. It offers vast opportunities for tax cheats, not to mention the abetting of moral turpitude.

    IRS man: “What happened to Freddy Fetus?”
    Taxpayer: “Oh, he didn’t survive gestation. But don’t worry, we’re going to keep trying. Every year.”

    OMG.

  2. Amendment XIV (1868)

    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    Notice the word, “born.”
    Note that pregnant females are both born and citizens of the United States with federally protected privileges (which includes dominion over her own body) and immunity (federal protection) against any state that would deprive her of life, liberty, or property.

    1. Scary that lawmakers can’t read the Constitution, isn’t it? Not to mention Roe v. Wade, where the Supreme Court, in discussing the Constitution’s use of the word “person” said: “… the use of the word is such that it has application only postnatally. None indicates, with any assurance, that it has any possible pre-natal application.”

      1. Big difference, Jim.

        The constitution doesn’t define, authorize or oppose marriage of any nature. Lacking that federal power, it devolves to the states and citizens.

        In fact, in my opinion, the government (of any jurisdiction) has no business dictating the specifications of any contracts that don’t involve fraud or some other harmful element. I see no logical reason why a marriage contract should be special.

        Just me of course.

    1. Yes, I’m very upset with my old home state. But the bill still has to get through the House and be signed by the governor. I seem to recall they rejected a similarly regressive bill a few years ago. Hope I’m right about that.

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