State lawmakers in Oklahoma yesterday took up a piece of legislation that would grant “personhood” status to human embryos. The measure, which was passed by the state Senate, advanced through the House Public Health Committee, despite warnings that it could endanger the lives of women.
Oklahoma Senate Bill 1443 would require that the laws of the state be interpreted and construed “to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state.”
Though personhood supporters say their aim is to outlaw abortion, critics warn that fetal personhood measures would have a host of unintended consequences and could outlaw birth control, in vitro fertilization and some types of medical research.
An amendment brought by state Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, which read, “Nothing in this act would prevent a doctor from terminating a pregnancy to save the life of the mother,” was tabled during yesterday’s committee.
The bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Lisa Billy, told the committee her bill is simply a “statement of purpose” that recognizes what she said is “the irrefutable scientific fact that life begins at conception.”
At least 22 states are currently pushing personhood measures. In Florida, supporters are currently collecting signatures for a personhood measure they hope will land on the state’s 2014 ballot. So far, the Florida movement has not seen legislative support, but the head of the state’s personhood affiliate says it is becoming increasingly popular among Florida residents, thanks to enhanced media coverage of similar amendments across the country.
Personhood Florida needs 676,811 valid petitions for ballot access. Once it has collected 10 percent of that number (or 67,681 valid petitions), the personhood amendment will go to the Supreme Court of Florida for approval.