Okla. Lawmaker Files 'Personhood' Bill Replicating Failed Measure From Last Year

January 17, 2013 — Oklahoma Rep. Mike Reynolds (R) has filed a bill (HB 1029) for the upcoming legislative session that would redefine when life begins, potentially reigniting last year's debate over a nearly identical measure, the Tulsa World reports. The state Legislature convenes on Feb. 4.

The legislation states that life begins at conception -- which is already enshrined in state law -- 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" state residents. An exemption from prosecution would be allowed for a pregnant woman "indirectly harming her unborn child" and miscarriages.

Similarities to Last Year's Bill

Reynolds' Personhood Act of 2013 is "virtually identical" to legislation (SB 1433) that failed last year after House leaders abandoned efforts to bring it for a vote, the World reports. Reynolds backed a petition to place the measure on the state ballot, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the measure was unconstitutional because it infringed on a woman's right to abortion.

The bill also could affect fertility clinics and medical research involving embryos. Reynolds said he is unsure of the bill's implications for what he referred to as "so-called medical research."

He said he has not yet discussed the bill with Rep. T. W. Shannon (R), the new speaker of the House (Krehbiel, Tulsa World, 1/16).

Editorial Derides 'Unconstitutional and Misguided Sequel' to Last Year's Bill

"Like a sequel to a bad horror movie, the controversial 'personhood' bill is in production again," a Tulsa World editorial writes, adding, "This unconstitutional and misguided sequel needs to be treated as what it is -- a flop."

The editorial notes that given last year's court ruling, the legal consequences of the new measure are reason for concern.

"[I]t seems obvious that this bill is yet another attempt to subvert federal law and deny women the right to choose how to conduct their own lives and make their own decisions about their bodies," the editorial adds, calling the bill "simply another attempt to outlaw abortion" (Tulsa World, 1/16).