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Oklahoma Senate passes Personhood Bill

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Hannah Boast
WVoN co-editor

The Oklahoma senate in the United States has passed a personhood bill that would define human life as beginning from the moment of conception.

Effectively this would ban abortion.

The bill was passed in the state senate with a margin of 34-8, showing the support for pro-life politics among Oklahoma’s majority Republican leaders.

It must still be approved by Oklahoma’s House before passing into law, but with Republicans outnumbering Democrats there as well as in the Senate, the bill seems likely to pass this second stage.

Oklahoma’s Republican Governor Mary Fallin has not yet commented on the bill, but she is known to have previously backed anti-abortion legislation.

“Oklahoma is a conservative pro-life state – we are proud to stand up for what we know is right,” said senate Pro Tempore President Brian Bingman, a Republican.

“This bill is one of many Senate Republicans have advanced which affirms the right to life and I am proud to support it,” he added.

Oklahoma’s bill was intended to guarantee the same treatment to zygotes – its legislators prefer to use the loaded and inaccurate term “unborn children” – as to its adult citizens, granting them the “rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons”.

The legislation in Oklahoma follows similar anti-abortion bills approved by Virginia the previous day.

Together these would ban emergency contraception and require women seeking abortions to be forcibly penetrated in medically unnecessary ultrasound scans.

Personhood amendments have been rejected in state-wide ballots on a number of occasions, most recently in Mississippi in November 2011. Further referenda for similar amendments are scheduled for later this year in Ohio, Florida and South Dakota.

In Oklahoma and Virginia legislators have decided to skip the risky step of asking a divided public and take matters into their own hands.

Both bills have attracted media attention recently as the result of women Democrat senators tacking on humorous amendments with a serious message.

Virginia senator Janet Howell added an amendment to the ultrasound bill that would require men seeking treatment for erectile dysfunction to undergo an equally unnecessary and invasive rectal examination, as well as a cardiac test.

In Oklahoma, senator Constance Johnson added an amendment to the personhood bill that would have made it a crime against unborn children for men to waste sperm.

The joke was lost on the Oklahoma and Virginia legislatures, where senators and representatives preferred to ignore the suggestion that women deserve equal autonomy over their bodies to men.

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