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Personhood bill wins Oklahoma House panel approval

Opponents of personhood bill say it will interfere with the availability of contraception and in vitro fertilization procedures, but the bill's House author says it is simply a statement that life begins at contraception and won't change anything.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: March 28, 2012

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.

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