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Okla. House Rejects 'Personhood' Bill, Sends Fetal Heartbeat Measure to Governor

Okla. House Rejects 'Personhood' Bill, Sends Fetal Heartbeat Measure to Governor

April 20, 2012 — Oklahoma House Republicans on Thursday decided to abandon efforts to pass a "personhood" bill (SB 1433) this year, the Oklahoman reports (McNutt, Oklahoman, 4/20).

The Senate in February voted 34-8 to approve the bill, and many expected the Republican-controlled House would also pass the measure and send it to Gov. Mary Fallin (R), an abortion-rights opponent (Olafson, Reuters, 4/19). The bill would have granted "the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges and immunities available to other" state residents. It defined "unborn child" as "the offspring of human beings from the moment of conception until birth" (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/29).

The House Republican caucus held a private vote on Thursday to decide whether to proceed with the legislation. House Speaker Kris Steele said some caucus members were concerned about possible litigation (Oklahoman, 4/20). A number of Oklahoma health care providers spoke out against the bill after it passed the Senate, according to Reuters. State Rep. Randy Terrill (R) said some lawmakers thought that business leaders disliked the bill.

Martha Skeeters, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, said the bill would have threatened the legality of widely used contraceptives, fertility treatments and medical procedures (Reuters, 4/19).

Effort To Advance Other Bill

Rep. Lisa Billy (R) said she will push for passage of a similar bill (HB 1571) that passed the House last year but never received a hearing in the Senate.

Some House Republicans began a petition effort on Wednesday to try to force the bill to be heard on the House floor. However, Steele said the effort did not comply with the chamber's rules (Oklahoman, 4/20).

House Sends Fetal Heartbeat Measure To Governor

The House on Thursday also voted to approve a bill (SB 1274) that would require physicians to offer women a chance to listen to a fetal heartbeat prior to an abortion, the AP/Oklahoman reports. The House voted 75-12 to approve the vote, which now heads to the governor's desk.

Opponents of the bill charged that Republicans were "playing politics" with abortion issues, according to the AP/Oklahoman. State Rep. Doug Cox (R), a physician, objected to language in the bill that gives family members of the patient a broader ability to sue abortion providers (AP/Oklahoman, 4/19).