Oklahoma Senate panel approves personhood bill: Life begins at conception

On the floor

Senator Crain takes Questions on the Senate Floor

By BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Published: 2/7/2012 2:24 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that would declare that personhood starts at conception is headed to the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 1433, by Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, passed the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services on Monday, the first day of the legislative session.

The measure says life begins at conception.

“Unborn children have protectable interest in life, health and well-being,” the bill says.

“The laws of this state shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development all rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens and residents of this state,” it says.

In response to that bill, Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, who is strongly pro-choice, offered an amendment that would make the father of an unborn child financially responsible for its mother’s health care, housing, transportation and nourishment while she is pregnant.

Wilson’s amendment failed.

Crain’s bill would not create a cause of action against a woman for indirectly harming her unborn child by failing to properly care for herself or failing to follow a program of prenatal care.

Critics say the measure would affect birth control, give inheritance rights to the unborn and reduce the availability of in-vitro fertilization, among other things. Crain disagreed.

He said it would not make women subject to homicide or manslaughter charges for seeking an abortion because abortion is allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But Crain said the measure announces that Oklahoma is a pro-life state.

Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, said that while it takes two people to create life, Crain’s measure focuses only on half of that equation.

Dr. Eli Reshef, medical director at the Bennett Fertility Institute, which is affiliated with Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City, said the bill would reduce the number of providers for in-vitro fertilization.

If a lab technician dropped a dish containing fertilized human eggs, it would be considered a crime, Reshef said.

“Embryos, including those frozen in storage, are now persons,” Reshef said.

“Do they have inheritance rights because they are a person now?

“Do they have to be counted in the Census? I know this might sound like stretching, but this is how vague a law like this is.”

Tony Lauinger, Oklahomans for Life chairman, said, “This same law has been in effect elsewhere in the United States over the past 20 years and has not resulted in the occurrences that Dr. Reshef has mentioned.”

Lauinger also said, “it establishes the foundational principle that Oklahoma values the life of the unborn child.”

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