A House committee passed a bill Tuesday that backers say is a statement that Oklahomans value life, but opponents fear could lead to restrictions on abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research.
The House of Representatives Public Health Committee voted 7-4 to approve a revised form of Senate Bill 1433, which states that life begins at conception.
Rep. Lisa Billy, the House author of the bill, said nothing in the measure would prohibit contraception or in vitro fertilization.
“My goal with this legislation is to simply say that in Oklahoma we value life,” said Billy, R-Lindsay. “This bill is a value statement. ... It will not change anything.”
Billy said her measure is a statement of purpose and not a regulation. SB 1433 now goes to the full House.
Nearly 85 people attended the meeting. Committee Vice Chairman David Derby, R-Owasso, who presided over the 25-minute hearing on the bill, announced no one from the public would be allowed to speak.
Bids to amend the bill were quickly quashed by Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, who made motions to table them; committee members voted 7-4 to not take them up.
Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, proposed adding to the bill that nothing in the measure prohibits a physician from terminating a pregnancy if the life of the woman is endangered. An amendment by Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, would have put Billy's assurances it would not interfere with abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research in writing.
Martha Skeeters, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, said after the meeting that SB 1433 would interfere with the availability of contraception and in vitro fertilization procedures. About 30 members of her group attended the committee meeting.
“It is dangerous to women's health,” said Skeeters, of Norman. “This is the state putting itself in the position of doctors who are trained to make medical judgments.
“This is going to cost the taxpayers of Oklahoma money because it will be challenged,” she said. “The constitutionality of it will definitely be challenged.”
The issue has drawn attention at the state Capitol and nationally. Hundreds gathered last month at the Capitol to protest the measure.
During Senate debate last month, Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, tried unsuccessfully to get an amendment to the measure that said it was an act against unborn children for men to waste sperm.
Billy said SB 1433 would not create a cause of action against a woman for indirectly harming her unborn child by failing to properly care for herself or failing to follow a program of prenatal care. It would not make women subject to homicide or manslaughter charges for seeking an abortion because abortion is allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court, she said.
The bill is based on a law in Missouri, which was upheld in 1989 by the U.S. Supreme Court, she said.
McDaniel said she is concerned that SB 1433 omits a section of the Missouri law that says the law shall be interpreted and construed subject to the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Several medical groups, including the Oklahoma State Medical Association, oppose the measure, she said.
Cox, in debating against the measure, said the committee should not pass SB 1433 because a group is trying to get a similar measure on the ballot this fall. An anti-abortion group, Personhood Oklahoma, is trying to get a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would define a fertilized human egg as a human being and would ban abortions and outlaw certain forms of birth control.
“If you believe in the American system, let's kill this bill and see what the people of Oklahoma have to say,” Cox said.