US & Canada

Oklahoma abortions: Women may need partners' permission

Abortion rights supporters chant pro-choice slogans during a rally outside of the Planned Parenthood South Dallas Surgical Health Services Center, Saturday morning, Feb. 11, 2017 Image copyright AP
Image caption Oklahoma's latest bill is being seen as another sign of an emboldened anti-abortion movement under Donald Trump. Pictured: A pro-choice rally in Dallas, Texas

A proposal which would force women to get permission from their sexual partner to allow them to have an abortion has passed the first hurdle in Oklahoma.

The bill would mean women needed written consent from a man for a doctor to carry out a termination.

The bill's author, state legislator Justin Humphrey, who has described pregnant women as "hosts", said it would give the father a "say-so".

Critics say it degrades women.

The fact Oklahoma lawmakers decided to move the measure toward a full vote by the legislature comes at a time the anti-abortion movement is growing bolder under President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump at one point suggested women should be punished for having abortions, and promised to elect an anti-abortion judge to the Supreme Court. The position of his nominee, Neil Gorsuch, on abortion is unclear.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Republican representative Justin Humphrey urged women to 'be responsible' with their bodies

The Associated Press says at least 11 anti-abortion bills have been introduced in Oklahoma this session, including one that classifies the procedure as first-degree murder, but it is unlikely many of those will reach the governor's desk.

This particular bill would allow men to demand a paternity test before the procedure could be carried out, but does make exceptions for women who have been raped or are the victims of incest.

US abortion debate: Both sides speak


Pregnant women are nothing more than a 'host'

What bill author Justin Humphrey told US websiteThe Intercept

"I understand that they [women] feel like that is their body. I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you're a 'host.' And you know when you enter into a relationship you're going to be that host and so, you know, if you pre-know that then take all precautions and don't get pregnant.

"So that's where I'm at. I'm like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you're irresponsible then don't claim, well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you're the host and you invited that in."


Oklahoma already has some of the toughest abortion regulations anywhere in the US. Last year, the state's Republican governor, who would have to sign any approved measure into law, vetoed a bill calling for prison terms for doctors who performed abortions.

Women seeking abortions in Oklahoma already must undergo a 72-hour waiting period and counselling on a perceived link between abortion and breast cancer.

The National Cancer Institute and other medical experts say there is no link.

Pro-choice advocates are furious this bill has been tabled at all.

Trump's abortion order explained

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Abortion, legalised in 1973, still sharply divides America

"Oklahoma HB 1441 is an outrageous bill meant to shame, burden, and degrade women seeking abortion care," said a statement by Diane Horvath-Cosper, spokeswoman for the New York-based Physicians for Reproductive Health.

However, activists are hopeful that previous legal precedent will mean it gets knocked back.

Tamya Cox, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said the US Supreme Court already ruled against requirements to notify the father in 1992.

"Courts have said that states cannot create undue burdens and create unnecessary obstacles when it comes to a woman's right to access abortion," she said. "To waste taxpayer dollars on bills like this does not represent what's best for Oklahomans."

The Oklahoma measure is likely to face a full vote later this year.

Related Topics

More on this story