First 'personhood' bill of session is filed
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
1/16/13 at 3:59 AM
Related story: Editorial: “Personhood” sequel a flop.
OKLAHOMA CITY - One of last year's most emotional issues for the Oklahoma Legislature apparently will be revisited this spring, with at least one "personhood" bill already filed for the session that begins Feb. 4.
"Personhood," a concept popular among abortion-rights opponents, holds that individual rights and constitutional protections begin at conception.
State Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, is the author of House Bill 1029, the Personhood Act of 2013. As written, the bill appears to be virtually identical to one that led to a bitter fight in the House of Representatives before it failed to get a vote on the floor.
A resolution with the same language as the bill but without the force of law did pass in the House, with several personhood supporters condemning it as a sellout.
Reynolds backed an initiative petition to take the personhood issue to a vote of the people, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court deemed the proposed law unconstitutional, saying it would interfere with a woman's right to an abortion.
HB 1029 states that life begins at conception - which is already part of state law - and that "unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being" and that Oklahoma law "shall 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."
A pregnant woman would be exempt from prosecution for "indirectly harming her unborn child" and miscarriages.
Reynolds said the measure "would make every law apply as if life begins at conception."
In practical application, the law could have more of an impact on fertility clinics and medical research than abortion. Abortion would remain legal under a decades-old Supreme Court decision, but the law pertaining to disposal of unused frozen embryos is not as clear.
Reynolds himself said he did not know the implications for what he termed "so-called medical research."
"We would have to evaluate everything on a statute-by-statute basis," he said.
House leaders refused to bring the personhood bill to a vote last year, saying the Republican caucus voted twice not to hear it. Reynolds said he has not talked to the new speaker, Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, about this year's bill.
"I wouldn't need to talk to the speaker," he said. "He's just another representative like the rest of us. If it is heard, that says one thing. And if it isn't, that says something else."
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Rep. Mike Reynolds: His HB 1029 states that life begins at conception and that "unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being" and that Oklahoma law "shall 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."