This has not been a good week for reproductive rights. Yesterday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on whether or not religious organizations should be “forced” to include contraception in their health insurance plans. All of the witnesses who testified were men, a fact which did not go unnoticed. Also, earlier this week, the Virginia state legislature passed a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound prior to the procedure. Since many abortions take place during the early stages of pregnancy, this means that in most cases only transvaginal ultrasounds would be able to produce images. Many critics are calling the measure state-sanctioned rape, as women seeking an abortion would have to be penetrated for a preliminary procedure that they don’t want or need.
The latest blow came yesterday, when the Oklahoma Senate cleared the “Personhood Act.” The act redefines the word “person” to include zygotes at the moment of conception.
The measure now has to go to the state House. Like the Senate, the Oklahoma House is vastly Republican, so it seems likely that the act will pass there as well. If the act is made into law, all abortions would effectively be illegal.
Opponents of the bill are, not surprisingly, quite concerned. Martha Skeeters is the president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, which is very low on the list of jobs that I would ever be patient enough to take on. Skeeters noted that the bill offers no concessions for victims of rape or incest. She also noted that the bill could affect doctors who perform in vitro fertilizations, who would practice in fear of being brought up on manslaughter charges should an embryo fail under their care.
It also seems likely that women who suffer miscarriages would have to be investigated to make sure that they didn’t somehow cause the pregnancy to fail. And since it’s estimated that up to half of all pregnancies end in miscarriages, it seems possible that the women’s prison population in Oklahoma could potentially explode.