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Women's rights

Oklahoma bill would force women to get men's permission for abortion

An Oklahoma bill that would require women seeking an abortion to first get permission from the father has moved forward. The male Republican lawmaker who wrote the bill has described pregnant women as "hosts."

A Republican lawmaker in the U.S. state of Oklahoma gained approval on Tuesday for a bill that would require women to receive written consent from their sexual partner in order to obtain an abortion.

The state House Public Health Committee voted in favor of the bill by Oklahoma Rep. Justin Humphrey, despite Humphrey admitting that it might be unconstitutional.

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The measure will now move toward a full vote in the state's legislature, where it is likely to pass if granted a hearing.

The bill, formally known as HB 1441, states: "No abortion shall be performed in this state without the written informed consent of the father of the fetus."

Women would be required to provide the father's identity to their doctor in writing. Additionally, should the man contest that he is the father, he may demand that a paternity test be performed.

Humphrey did, however, put in a provision that if the woman's sexual partner is deceased, the woman will be allowed to have an abortion - provided that she signs a notarized affidavit saying that the man is dead.

The bill would provide exceptions in cases where the woman is the victim of incest or rape, or if the pregnancy poses a danger to her life.

'You're a host'

On Tuesday, Humphrey defended his use of the term "host" to describe pregnant women, saying that there was no other appropriate term for referring to a woman's womb.

"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."

In comments published on Monday by online publication "The Intercept," the lawmaker explained that the bill was intended to give men a say in the process of abortion.

"I understand that they feel like this is their body," he said in the article referring to women. "I feel like it is a separate - what I call them is, is you're a 'host.'"

"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."

Humphrey's comments have drawn censure from politicians and activists alike, including the organizers of the Women's March.

Tamya Cox, spokeswoman of Planned Parenthood of Great Plains, called Humphrey's comments unacceptable and inflammatory.

When asked by a reporter which term she would use instead of "host," Cox responded: "women."

Constitutional challenges

Cox also added that the U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled against requirements to notify the father in its 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."

Oklahoma's bill is the latest in a series of far-reaching efforts to restrict abortion by Republican lawmakers emboldened by U.S. President Donald Trump's election, experts say.

Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, is known for his pro-life stance. Should he be confirmed, many fear that the constitutional right to abortion could be threatened as the court would then have a majority of conservative justices.

Abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973 but remains a divisive social and political issue.

rs/kl  (AP, Reuters)

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