Panel OKs plan to let dads block abortions

BY DALE DENWALT
Capitol Bureau ddenwalt@oklahoman.com

An Oklahoma House committee approved a bill allowing fathers to veto an abortion, despite objections that it would be found unconstitutional.

The measure requires women seeking an abortion to provide the father’s written, informed consent. A woman would also have to reveal the father’s name.

House Bill 1441 now moves on to the full House. It must still get Senate approval before heading to the governor.

The bill’s author, state Rep. Justin Humphrey, said he just wants to add the father into the abortion process.

“My bill would stop an abortion if a father does not agree to the abortion,” Humphrey told the committee, which eventually voted 5-2 in favor of the legislation.

Humphrey, R-Lane, said he intends to modify his bill so that he can keep working on it, a process known as striking title.

“There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered in this bill,” he said. “I’m willing to work with any of y’all to change things, to work with either side, to make a better bill.”

After his Public Health Committee meeting, Humphrey told reporters that he might not be able to get the bill to a place where it’s constitutional, or even to where it can pass the Legislature.

“The thing that I wanted to spark in a debate is that fathers have a role. Exactly where that role is, I’m not sure,” he said. “We are starting the right debate by saying, do fathers have a place? Where should that be?”

The bill includes exceptions for rape, incest and the mother’s health.

Tamya Cox of Planned Parenthood Great Plains said she was surprised when she first heard about House Bill 1441. She said a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirmed that women have the sole authority to get an abortion.

“We believe (it) is a bill that all legislators, regardless of how they feel about abortion, could easily vote down because of how unconstitutional it is,” Cox said.

The 1992 case, known as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, struck down several provisions of a Pennsylvania law that made it harder for women to get an abortion.

“The women most affected by this law — those who most reasonably fear the consequences of notifying their husbands that they are pregnant — are in the gravest danger,” the majority wrote.

Cox called the 24-year-old decision

longstanding law that gives women the right to have an abortion. She also said Humphrey’s list of objections is weak.

“While it made exceptions for rape, incest and death of the partner, it did not consider women in an abusive relationship,” she said. “One of the very numerous problems with this bill is there are so many questions left unanswered that may never be answered.”

Humphrey garnered national attention when he said women are “hosts” to unborn babies. He told reporters Tuesday that he looked up the word’s definition and couldn’t find a better one to describe a pregnant woman. Still, he apologized.

“When I use the term host, it's not meant to degrade women,” said Humphrey. “If there's better verbiage out there, I will gladly use better verbiage. I just couldn't find it.”

The committee on Tuesday also approved a second anti-abortion bill that had failed to pass in an earlier hearing. House Bill 1549 bans abortions that are done solely based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome or other genetic disease.