‘Personhood’ amendment in Oklahoma

The ‘personhood’ legislation that is currently working its way through the legislature in Oklahoma grants embryos full rights as people from the moment of conception. It is another front in the Republican war on women.

Al Madrigal of The Daily Show reports on a proposed amendment to the bill that captures the double standards that apply when it comes to restricting the rights of men versus those of women.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
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(This clip appeared on April 11, 2012. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)

This means that Oklahoma and all the other states considering personhood legislation are basing it on the theology first propounded in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.

Incidentally, in that clip state senator Ralph Shortey was wrong when he said that “a single sperm on its own cannot create life”. It has already been done, with a healthy child being born with a father whose sperm count was so low that the fertility clinic could collect only one live sperm from him.

But Arizona is going one better on Oklahoma. Their governor Jan Brewer has signed a law that says that gestational age begins on the first day of the woman’s last period, rather than at fertilization. So a woman can be considered to have become pregnant before the moment of conception, days before she has even had sex, a truly revolutionary concept.

What is behind this insanity? The idea is to start the clock on a pregnancy as early as possible in order to narrow the window for abortions.

Matthew Benson, a spokesman for Brewer, said that Arizona’s law previously forbade abortions once a fetus was viable outside the uterus, a term he described as between 22 to 24 weeks. “This law has bumped that deadline up to 20 weeks,” he said.

These people are crazy.


  1. slc1 says

    They may be crazy but they managed to get elected so what does that say about their constituents?

  2. 'Tis Himself says

    More and more, I’m convinced that conservatives are trying to hide their economic agenda by pushing a more and more outrageous social agenda. Folks like Romney and his mentors don’t really care about contraception and even abortion. They do care about shifting the tax burden from the ultra rich and corporations onto the working class and ever-shrinking middle class. But if they get too blatant about it people might notice. So they’re doing the old “look at that” and “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

  3. Sheila says

    That bill failed to get out of committee last week, but there is strong effort among the legislature to resurrect it.

    I live in Oklahoma, and none of these guys are getting my vote. There is a Democrat running in this district for the first time in decades.

    THIS is a real chance for Democrats to step up to the plate, refute these rethuglicans, and run for office.

    Of course, sadly, most Democrats in this state likely agree with the ‘a sperm is a person’ bill.

    Do I want to move? Why yes, yes I do, thanks for asking. But my husband is a small business owner with established clientele and it would be extremely difficult for him to move away and start all over.

    And, there are some people here with some sense; Greta and Hemant Mehta are speaking at this conference in June: http://freeok.org/

  4. BKsea says

    I hope that Oklahoma is prepared to send the police and coroner every time a woman miscarries. I hope they are willing to pay the burial costs for impoverished people who miscarry. If I lived there under this law I would insist on it.

    (We miscarried 4 times and were devestated every time but I never thought we were experiencing the death of a human being)

  5. smrnda says

    The Arizona law stating that a woman is pregnant on the last day of menstruation is insane – I mean, that would mean that by the standards of Arizona law, a completely sexually inactive woman can be considered pregnant based on a need to protect a *potential* fetus which doesn’t exist yet. Even if there is some notion of a fetus having rights, there IS NO FETUS OR EMBRYO at that stage – it’s just basically stating that, for the purpose of the law a woman is a uterus and that uteri must be regulated. Anyone proposing a law like this should be shouted out of office for disregarding reality – the woman is NOT PREGNANT AT ALL on the last day of menstruation.

    Plus, I took an embryology course and lots of fertilized eggs don’t implant. I don’t know if this is conjecture or an established fact, but the class mentioned that a reason why older women are more likely to have children with genetic and chromosomal abnormalities was that the uterus typically rejects fertilized eggs with those abnormalities, but that the ability to do so seems to decline with age.

    This is clearly not about anything but criminalizing being a woman, unless the woman’s goal is to be a willingly submissive baby factory.

  6. meanmike says

    Why not just skip a few steps and declare embryos with two X chromosomes to be pregnant two weeks before they are conceived? These laws defy conventional stupidity.

  7. I'm_not says

    You’re the physicist, professor, so would know better than me but isn’t the Arizona legislation a little like Shroedinger’s cat? The woman’s egg being in a superposition of being both fertilised and unfertilised between the end of her last period and actual conception? Have they invented quantum biology?

  8. I'm_not says

    So, from the end of her last period the woman’s egg is in a superposition of being both unfertilised and fertilised, potentially by any active human sperm on the planet, until the state collapses either through actual conception or not. Does this imply all fertile men are the father of the child until the state actually does collapse?

  9. Mano Singham says

    That IS a clever observation! Yes, you are right, this is quite analogous to Schrodinger’s Cat.

  10. Arthur says

    killing embryos = killing babies People want to keep killing babies so their “mistakes” are forgotten. I have a daughter who was supposed to have been aborted if the biological father had “showed up with the money” to erase his mistake. Killing her embryo would have killed her. Letting babies live is not radical. I am grateful to God that she lived.

  11. Dianne says

    So a woman can be considered to have become pregnant before the moment of conception, days before she has even had sex, a truly revolutionary concept.

    Wasn’t there an Onion article like this? Something like “Texas legislature rules that life begins the moment a woman thinks about sex”?

    Does the AZ law imply that it is illegal to not have sex if you’re ovulating because that would be, by this law, abortion? Can I sue for damages if the “logic” of the law gives me a nasty headache? What about a stroke?

  12. Dianne says

    You do realize that if your daughter’s biological mother hadn’t slept with the dirtbag who left her without recourse she (the daughter) wouldn’t be alive either. Or if the mother had used precautions or if she’d thought to suggest an alternate method of pleasuring each other or…Just how far are you willing to go with this argument? Would you want your daughter to sleep with a sleezebag and get pregnant by him so that she can have a baby to sell to a “good” parent some day?

  13. James says

    Does this also impose a moral (legal?) obligation on the woman to have intercourse with a male in order to “save a life”? Will women soon be required to marry at onset of menses?

  14. I'm_not says

    I am pleased you have a wonderful daughter but to carry your logic to its conclusion you have to say contraception is killing babies, (if they had used a condom you’d have no daughter), that abstinence is killing babies (if they hadn’t had sex you’d have no daughter).

    Think of all the daughters you have been denied by contraception or abstinence or the natural process of fertilised eggs simply not “taking”.

    Your story has a happy ending but you must see ruining one, two, three maybe more lives is not a price worth paying over a few cells which are no more a human than a sperm on one side of a condom and an egg on the other is.

    Abortion isn’t the perfect solution, of course, but education, better contraception provision and treating people like adults will help reduce that.

  15. Frank says

    On the upside, I suppose this means that any woman of childbearing age in Arizona would be able to park in those “Stork Parking” spaces for at least a few weeks every month. I’m sure the sponsors of the legislation were thinking of this when they wrote it. See, they did have women’s best interests in mind!

  16. jaxkayaker says

    “Incidentally, in that clip state senator Ralph Shortey was wrong when he said that “a single sperm on its own cannot create life”. It has already been done, with a healthy child being born with a father whose sperm count was so low that the fertility clinic could collect only one live sperm from him.”

    Um, no. The sperm still had to fertilize an egg to end up with a baby. A sperm by itself cannot create life. Nor can eggs, without extraordinary technological intervention, which has been done with mice, iirc.

    Before people start jumping my case, I don’t agree with these laws, but Dr. Singham’s refutation of that point failed to refute.

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