Oklahoma Legislator: Women Are Body Hosts

One of the controversial anti-abortion bills receiving consideration by the Oklahoma Legislature this session has drawn widespread media attention and has embarrassed the state throughout the nation once again.

House Bill 1441, sponsored by Justin Humphrey, a Republican from Lane in southeastern Oklahoma, would require women seeking an abortion to have the "written informed consent of the father" before proceeding. The provision alone is ludicrous in its essence because it doesn’t take into account many factors, such the basic right of women to control their bodies to the myriad of situations that could lead to an unwanted pregnancy.

But it was what Humphrey said about the bill that drew coverage throughout the country. In an interview with The Intercept site, Humphrey said:

I understand that they [women] feel like that is their body. I feel like it is a separate — what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.’ 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. So that’s where I’m at. I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. 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.

But what if the birth control failed or what if the woman doesn’t want her sexual partner to know about it or what if the relationship situation doesn’t warrant discussing the issue with anyone but medical professionals? These are just some of the issues.

The idea that women don’t have personal agency when it comes to their bodies is an insult to them.

What’s more Humphrey’s comments are just silly in a truly remarkable sense that drew some form of coverage, along with The Intercept, from (and this is just a partial list) The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Newsweek, Vox and Slate.

The bill would obviously draw a major lawsuit on constitutional grounds and undoubtedly cost the state money in legal costs at some level even if Republicans dispute this.

This is what I call another performance bill by conservative Republicans. They enact a performance for their deeply seated conservative base, knowing full well such extremist bills will never be implemented.

Another bill drew widespread attention as well, although without some of the theatrics. Under House Bill 1549, sponsored by George Faught, a Republican from Muskogee, women would be prohibited from receiving abortions if based on the fact that the fetus has a genetic abnormality.

This bill, too, would draw a major lawsuit in terms of its constitutional legality. Here the question rests simply on a women’s right to an abortion as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court. It also shows a streak of cruelty against women who might well know the fetus has little likelihood of surviving inside or outside the womb and perhaps put their own lives at danger. To abort a fetus in these situations is often a deeply personal and emotional decision, and it should be made by women with medical guidance and without any intrusion from the government.

Both bills are moving forward as the conservative performance here goes on to the laughter and horror of people throughout the country. Meanwhile, the state faces a major budget shortfall, and our low-paying teachers are flocking the state to teach in other places that will pay them and appreciate them better than what they find in Oklahoma. Funding to higher education was cut by nearly 16 percent last year.