Oklahoma Debates Bill Requiring Men to Give Abortion Permission

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Anti-abortion and abortion rights activists gather at the Supreme Court for the National March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., January 27. Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

Oklahoma legislators will discuss a bill on Tuesday that, if passed, would require a pregnant woman to get written permission from a man to get an abortion.

Oklahoma House Bill 1441, the latest of many bizarre anti-abortion initiatives to be debated at the state level, says abortions could not be performed "without the written informed consent of the father of the fetus."

"A pregnant woman seeking to abort her pregnancy shall be required to provide, in writing, the identity of the father of the fetus to the physician who is to perform or induce the abortion," the bill reads. "If the person identified as the father of the fetus challenges the fact that he is the father, such individual may demand that a paternity test be performed."

Related: Anti-Planned Parenthood rallies, counter-protests, held across U.S.

A paternity test wouldn't be required if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or if the pregnancy puts the life of the mother at risk. The requirement also wouldn't apply if the father of the fetus was dead, although the woman would still have to sign "a notarized affidavit attesting to that fact," according to the bill.

Women in Oklahoma already face some of the strictest abortion laws in the U.S., including a 72-hour waiting period and mandated counseling on the debunked link between abortion and breast cancer, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

A hearing on the bill will be held in the Oklahoma House Public Health Committee at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, which happens to be Valentine's Day. Another piece of legislation, House Bill 1549, which seeks to ban abortions based on genetic abnormalities, will also be discussed on Tuesday. The Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice said the latter bill would be "cruel to families experiencing difficult pregnancies," and, if passed, "removes options from families struggling with health issues of much-wanted pregnancies."

House Bill 1441 was introduced by Oklahoma State Representative Justin Humphrey, who referred to pregnant women as "hosts" for fetuses, The Intercept reports. Humphreys said that men being "excluded" from decisions involving abortion is "one of the breakdowns in our society," and added that "irresponsible" women don't have the right to abort "when you're the host and you invited that in."

In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that spousal notification of an abortion was an unconstitutional burden on women's access to abortion.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights organization, says House Bill 1441 is "one of the most extreme anti-choice bills in the country" and calls it another example of "the rise of the aggressively anti-choice ideology pushed by President [Donald] Trump, Vice President [Mike] Pence and their Republican allies across the country."

"Not only does this bill seek to unconstitutionally restrict women's right to make their own medical decisions, it undermines their fundamental autonomy over their own lives" James Owens, states communications director for NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement on Monday.

The debate over the bill comes days after protests in support of defunding Planned Parenthood women's health centers, as well as counter-protests, were held across the U.S. Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services in addition to preventative health care services including contraception, breast exams and STD testing, is a key focus of the anti-abortion movement, which believes federal dollars are paying for terminations.

Federal funding does not go toward performing abortions in the U.S., except in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is at risk.