Personhood bill touted as test for lawmakers
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
4/25/12 at 8:11 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahomans for Life on Tuesday said lawmakers who cast votes that fail to advance a "personhood" bill will be viewed as voting in support of abortion.
The House Republican Caucus twice decided it would not hear Senate Bill 1433, which would declare that personhood begins at conception.
Kevin Calvey, state vice chairman of Oklahomans for Life, said his organization is forced to regard the failure of any member to support procedural votes needed to bring the measure before the House to be "pro-abortion" votes on that member's record."
Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, balked at that notion, saying there is no way he could be considered an abortion supporter and adding that it looked like a threat to him.
Calvey's comments were made during a press conference called by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and various churches to urge lawmakers to pass the measure.
Holding his infant child with his wife by his side, Calvey said a personhood resolution passed earlier Tuesday by the House was not acceptable. He said it was not a compromise because it did not carry the force of law.
Calvey said many worked hard to bring Republicans into the majority in the Legislature because they were pro-life and the Republican Party is pro-life.
Heidi Wilburn, a spokeswoman for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and chairwoman of the Rose Day Prolife Rally, said the fate of the legislation was determined by votes taken behind closed doors when public action is needed so that voters know where lawmakers stand on the issue.
"We have been failed by the very people who are here because of our votes and campaign dollars with promises to bring our values to the Capitol and make our voices heard," Wilburn said.
She said the measure would not ban contraception or in-vitro fertilization.
"Senate Bill 1433 recognizes that the life of each human being begins at conception and acknowledges the value of every human life," Wilburn said. "There is great educational benefit in our legislators affirming this foundational principle."
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice said it supports the decision not to hear the bill.
"This legislation would be disastrous for Oklahoma on many levels," said Co-president Kelly Jennings of Tulsa. "Only attorneys who litigate all of the lawsuits arising from the ridiculous legislation will benefit."
The organization called the measure an assault on religious liberty. Faith groups do not have the right to force their viewpoint upon all Oklahoma women, Jennings said.
"Women are moral individuals," she said. "We have faith leaders to advise and lead us when we need help with decisions in our lives. And we ask doctors for medical advice, not the Legislature. It is time for the nonsense in the Oklahoma Legislature to end. Our state has more important issues facing women and their families. Personhood is not one of them."
Also Tuesday, Personhood USA asked Gov. Mary Fallin to use her influence to get the measure heard in the House and avoid a share in the blame.
Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said it is the Legislature's decision whether to hear the bill.
"Regardless of their decision, the history of this Legislature is one of pro-life lawmaking," Weintz said. "Oklahoma is one of the most pro-life states in the country, and Gov. Fallin is proud of the state's record in protecting the lives of the unborn."
Legislators mixed on personhood resolution
The state House approved a resolution Tuesday declaring that life begins at conception - despite opposition by pro-life leaders.
House Resolution 1054, which passed on a 74-13 vote, mimics language in the "personhood" bill but lacks the effect of law.
Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, a leading pro-life voice in the House, argued against the life-begins-at-conception measure because it isn't the personhood bill and wouldn't have the effect of law.
"Every single one of us knows this resolution doesn't do a thing," Hamilton said. "I've seen these tactics before. These are the tactics that are used to bottle up pro-life bills and have been for 30 years."
In addition to Hamilton, Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, voted against the measure. Reynolds is a leader of an initiative petition to make the personhood measure part of the Oklahoma Constitution. He also is a leading backer of Senate Bill 1433, the personhood bill.
Pro-choice legislators questioned the bill, pointing out that its language was already in state statute.
Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, asked why the House wasn't using its time on more important measures that might actually help living people.
The resolution's author, Rep. Steve Vaughan, R-Ponca City, described it as "our Declaration of Independence."
"Life starts at conception," Vaughan said. "I know it. I love it. I want it. And I want it to be heard across the country and across the state."
- Wayne Greene, World Senior Writer
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Kevin Calvey: He said a personhood resolution passed Tuesday by the House was not an acceptable compromise