Proposed U.S. law would force women seeking abortions to get partner permission

by Sebastien Malo | @SebastienMalo | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 14 February 2017 21:15 GMT

Thousands of people gather for the annual March for Life rally in Washington, DC, U.S. January 27, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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Opponents of the Oklahoma bill say it would violate the U.S. Constitution

By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A proposal requiring pregnant women to get permission from their sexual partner to get an abortion made headway on Tuesday in U.S. state of Oklahoma, where lawmakers decided to move the measure toward a full vote by the legislature.

The legislation is the latest in a string of far-reaching efforts to limit abortion by lawmakers emboldened by the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, experts say.

Trump has promised to appoint an anti-abortion justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. During his campaign, he said women who had abortions should be punished but later said it was doctors who perform abortions who should be punished.

Legislators in Oklahoma's House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to proceed with consideration of the bill that calls for a pregnant woman to obtain written consent of the father before getting an abortion.

"My bill just simply tries to add the father to the process and bring a father into the conversation of when abortions occur," said its author, Republican state Rep. Justin Humphrey, during a House session.

"They show up and they take part in creating the baby and then they have no say-so for nine months," he said.

The proposal typifies efforts underway since the November election, when the Republican Party, more conservative than the Democratic Party, took control of most state legislatures across the country, abortion rights advocates say.

"This Oklahoma bill falls into that category," said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst with the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research group.

In December, Ohio approved a measure banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, but the state governor vetoed a measure banning abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat, which could be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

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

Opponents of the Oklahoma bill, formally known as HB 1441, say it would violate the U.S. Constitution and not survive challenges in court.

"Oklahoma HB 1441 is an outrageous bill meant to shame, burden, and degrade women seeking abortion care," said a statement by Diane Horvath-Cosper, spokeswoman for the New York-based Physicians for Reproductive Health.

Efforts to require spousal consent or force pregnant women to alert their spouse of an abortion have lost in court challenges.

Women seeking abortions in Oklahoma, a southern state just north of Texas, already must undergo a 72-hour waiting period and counseling on a link between abortion and breast cancer, which the National Cancer Institute and other medical experts say is false.

The Oklahoma measure will likely be scheduled for a full vote later this year, according to a House spokeswoman.

It is expected to be adopted by both houses of the legislature.

The state's Republican governor, who would have to sign any approved measure into law, is an opponent of abortion but last year vetoed a bill calling for prison terms for doctors who performed abortions.

The measure would not apply in cases of rape or incest or if the mother's life is in danger.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)