Oklahoma Personhood Bill Ignites Feminist Movement

Fetal Personhood Bill Ignites Feminist Movement In Oklahoma

Oklahoma Sen. Judy McIntyre (D), one of four women in the 48-member state Senate, looked out over a sea of homemade signs at a fetal personhood protest at the state Capitol on Tuesday and spotted one that she wanted to hold herself.

"If I wanted the government in my womb," the sign said in painted blue letters, "I'd fuck a Senator."

At the risk of offending some of her mostly male Republican colleagues, who recently voted to pass a controversial fetal personhood bill, she grabbed the sign and posed with it for photos.

"I was so excited about the fact that the women in Oklahoma have finally begun to wake up and fight for their rights," she told HuffPost. "I saw a sea of signs that caught my eye, but this one in particular -- I loved its offensive language, because it's just as offensive for Republicans of Oklahoma to do what they're doing as it relates to women's bodies. I don't apologize for it."

The "Personhood Act," introduced by Sen. Brian Crain (R), would give legal personhood rights to embryos from the moment of fertilization. A similar measure was rejected in Mississippi, one of the most conservative states in the country, because legal and medical experts raised concerns that the bill could ban some forms of birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research.

Although Oklahoma Republicans have passed numerous abortion restrictions over the past few years, the culture wars over women's health and birth control that are currently happening nationally have reignited the women's rights movement on the state level, bringing unprecedented amounts of attention to what are now routine challenges to women's reproductive health.

In addition to grassroots protests, some female Democratic lawmakers have protested in their own way by attaching amendments to anti-abortion bills that are intended to call attention to what they say are absurd anti-women policy initiatives. For instance, Sen. Constance Johnson (D) proposed a "spilled semen" amendment to the personhood bill that would declare it an act against unborn children for men to waste sperm.

In Virginia, state Sen. Janet Howell (D) introduced a protest amendment to a mandatory ultrasound bill in her state that would require men to have a rectal exam before being prescribed Viagra.

"The Republicans have awakened a sleeping giant," McIntyre said. "When you get women stirred up, particularly the young women who are used to being able to make decisions about their own bodies, you are going to be challenged and challenged hard."

Crain, the Oklahoma bill's sponsor, did not respond to a request for comment.

The personhood bill passed in the state Senate by a vote of 34 to 8 and is expected to sail through the GOP-controlled House. If Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signs it, as she has signed every other anti-abortion bill that has reached her desk, Oklahoma will be the first state in the country to enact a personhood bill.

Despite the fact that McIntyre's opposition to fetal personhood places her very much in the minority in Oklahoma, she said she has yet to take any heat from Republican senators for holding the profane sign.

"I'm still getting the hugs from my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats," she said.

CORRECTION: An earlier photo caption for this story erroneously located the Oklahoma Capitol building in Tulsa. The error has been corrected.

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