EDITORIAL: Oklahoma's Personhood Act brings dangerous, extreme consequences
Our View: The “Personhood Act” has dangerous, absurd consequences.
With Monday marking the first day of Oklahoma’s legislative session, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee is already hard at work considering extreme bills with wide-reaching consequences. One of the first bills up for discussion Monday was Senate Bill 1433, otherwise known as the “Personhood Act.”
This bill would create a constitutional amendment to expand the definition of a “person” to cover from the moment of conception until birth, which would include fertilized eggs and embryos. This may sound appealing to pro-life Sooners, but the consequences — both intended and not — could be devastating to women and families.
It would outlaw certain forms of birth control, such as the “morning after” pill and intrauterine devices, and it’s unclear where other kinds of hormonal contraceptives would fall under this law. Birth control is essential not only to women’s prosperity — giving them control over their lives and careers — but, in many cases, to their health as well.
It also would severely limit in-vitro fertilization, the practice by which many infertile couples are able to have children. In that process, several embryos are created to improve the chances of success. But under this law, even defective embryos could not be disposed of after treatment.
And even accidental harm to embryos in the laboratory may be considered murder. This could quickly become an impossible burden on the medical and laboratory facilities and limit the options for in-vitro treatment.
Ultimately, this bill is anti-life and anti-family.
In addition to penalizing women and infertile couples, this law provides no exceptions for rape or incest. It would force women to have children, taking away even many types of birth control, regardless of whether the circumstances would be harmful to the child or to the woman herself.
But the worst of the consequences are simply absurd. Under this bill, any unborn child (which would now include frozen embryos in an in-vitro lab) could be a “person” who must be counted in the 10-year Census under the current law. And as people, would these embryos be entitled to all the usual rights, such as inheritance?
And then there is the obvious fact that a zygote or an embryo is clearly not a person. They are both simply kinds of cell matter inside the woman’s body. A zygote is a one-celled fertilized egg and an embryo is one that has begun to divide and develop. For the first few weeks it has no heartbeat, brain activity or limbs. It may, eventually, become a person.
The fact that such a bill would outlaw all abortions and encourage dangerous illegal procedures was surely evident to its sponsors after the years of debate since Roe v. Wade. The other consequences were, hopefully, less apparent. But we can’t afford to ignore them.
This bill is nothing more than a cowardly attempt to circumvent Roe v. Wade without directly confronting the law. And it’s obvious why: They would lose.
Such amendments have been debated and defeated in several states, including recently in Mississippi and last year here in Oklahoma. Let’s make it happen again.
A bill such as this must get through committee, be approved by both the House and Senate and then be approved by a majority vote of Oklahoma citizens. Let’s not let it get off the ground. Contact the chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, at firstname.lastname@example.org and urge the committee to kill the bill immediately.