Women as ‘hosts?’ The impact of HB1441

A state lawmaker believes his bill requiring a woman to ask the father’s permission for an abortion is protecting parental rights.

State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, told an Oklahoma City television station that women were ‘hosts’ to their unborn children.

“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,” he said.

Humphrey said that in most cases the father’s side of the pregnancy story is not heard, and that there are three people who are involved in the pregnancy: “the mother, the father, and the child”. Humphrey said he has the utmost respect for a woman’s body, and that when referring to a “host” he actually was referring to a third party surrogate.

Humphrey wrote legislation that would prohibit an abortion from being performed without the consent of that father if the mother doesn’t know the father’s identity, and if she has to, she must pay for a paternity test.

Section 1 of the bill notes that it would not pertain to rape victims, when the father is deceased (and after the mother signs an affidavit), in the case of incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger.

Humphrey said he is concerned that in conditions of abortion the father usually has no say. He argues that he has seen several fathers come into his office crying “because their child was aborted” without their knowledge or consent.

Humphrey said the mother would have to carry the child without her consent, but that despite this the father should have a say in the abortion.

Some Oklahomans feel that the bill is harmful to women’s rights. Tykebrean McClain, founder of Embrace Yourself, a self-love project, wrote that Humphrey’s bill was not fair.  “Yes, it’s the mother and father’s choice,” she wrote. “But she has to carry the baby no matter what. So if she feels she can’t carry or she doesn’t want to she shouldn’t have to.”

McClain thinks the bill would increase the number of single mothers in Oklahoma. She said that her mother was considering having an abortion when she was pregnant with her. McClain’s father had no intention of being in her life, so she believes that if the father doesn’t care there should be no reason to ask permission.

McClain continued, “It’s her body, her choice. The baby isn’t even here, and in a lot of cases the dad isn’t there if the mother is thinking about an abortion. No one should have to answer to a man.”

Data from the United States Census Bureau shows that in 2010 Oklahoma there were over 63,000 mothers living with their birth children than fathers. As a whole, America has twice as many single mothers than single fathers.

Mark Hammons, Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman, agrees that a woman should not have to answer to a man.

Hammons said he is not sure why Republicans voted for the bill because, “allowing the father to sign off on abortion would still be allowing abortion.” He said the bill also does not subject the man to pay child support, or to help the mother in any way.

He said another piece of legislation, HB 1549, would prohibit abortions if there is “the diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome, or genetic abnormality of unborn child,” would not provide help for families affected by the bill, thus leaving them financially responsible.

Hammons says bills like 1441 are unconstitutional. He pointed to lawsuits such as Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, which stated that any laws restricting a woman’s access to abortion would be unconstitutional.

Ashley Crawford of Skiatook was a mother at the age of 19. She wrote that she struggled with backlash from others because she was unmarried and pregnant.  

They considered it a “shameful thing” for someone her age. They urged her to get an abortion, but she refused, having already had one at 17. She felt it was necessary to stand by her choices and raise her son even though his father would not be around.

Crawford wrote that HB 1441 would have affected her ‘had I decided to get one at 19, with him not being in the picture at the time,’ and that to decrease abortions in general, women should be allowed ‘more planning, more awareness about birth control, and also more education at a younger age about sex and safe sex.’

Crawford’s story isn’t unusual. Planned Parenthood officials report that abortion is very common, and that 3 out of 10 women have a safe, legal abortion before they’re 45.

The organization said that in 2011 the abortion rate was the lowest since 1973, and that this is largely due to ‘improved contraception’.

In the case of fathers’ rights Ari Ramsaidh, a nurse at a woman’s center in Ponca City, agreed. “I think it’s important to have a conversation with the partner involved, but it’s ultimately up to the woman to decide, and the job of the partner to be supportive,” she said.

Representative Humphrey agrees that abortion is a very controversial topic, and that he wants his bill to spark a conversation about a father’s rights. Humphrey says he is open to improvement on the bill, and that his intentions were to give the father a decision in abortion.

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