Oklahoma lawmaker defends comment calling pregnant women “hosts”

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Republican Oklahoma lawmaker who defended his description of pregnant women as “hosts” won approval Tuesday for his bill that would require women seeking an abortion to first receive written consent from the father.

The state House Public Health Committee voted 5-2 in favor of the bill by Rep. Justin Humphrey, despite Humphrey’s own concession that it might be unconstitutional. It now proceeds to the full House, where it’s likely to pass if granted a hearing.

“The thing I wanted to spark in a debate is that fathers have a role. Exactly where that role is, I’m not sure,” said Humphrey, R-Lane. “I’m proud that I’ve gotten a chance to start the conversation.”

The bill would require women seeking an abortion to provide the name of the father and would prohibit her from going through with it without his written informed consent. It also would allow the father to demand that a paternity test be performed and would provide exceptions in cases where the woman is the victim of rape or incest or if the pregnancy would endanger her life.

Humphrey acknowledged that the bill may not pass constitutional muster, but said he wanted to ensure that fathers have a role in the abortion process.

Tamya Cox, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said the U.S. Supreme Court already ruled against requirements to notify the father in a 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

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

Cox also lambasted Humphrey for referring to women as “hosts,” a comment she said was inflammatory and unacceptable but which Humphrey defended again on Tuesday.

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

The same committee on Tuesday also approved a separate measure prohibiting abortions based on the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality or Down syndrome.

Oklahoma’s Republican-led Legislature has passed some of the country’s most far-reaching anti-abortion legislation, but at least five of the proposals have been tossed by the courts in the last six years. Three additional bills remain tied up in court.

At least 11 anti-abortion bills have been introduced this session, including one that classifies the procedure as first-degree murder, but it’s unlikely many of those will reach the governor’s desk. The Legislature last year approved a bill to make it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison for anyone who performs an abortion, but Republican Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed it, saying it was clearly unconstitutional.

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