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Lawmaker who called pregnant women a ‘host’ pushes bill requiring fathers to approve abortion

Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak before a Public Health Committee at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Feb. 14, 2017. Humphrey submitted House Bill 1441 requiring permission from the father before a woman gets an abortion. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP)

A bill advancing in Oklahoma would require a woman to get the written consent of the fetus’s father before obtaining an abortion.

The bill, which passed out of a House committee Tuesday, would also require a woman “to provide, in writing, the identity of the father of the fetus to the physician who is to perform or induce the abortion,” according to the bill’s language. “If the person identified as the father of the fetus challenges the fact that he is the father, such individual may demand that a paternity test be performed.”

The bill’s author, Rep. Justin Humphrey (R), could not be reached for comment Tuesday. But in an interview with The Intercept earlier this month, Humphrey said that men should be able to have a say over the fate of a fetus, and suggested that a woman has greater responsibility in a relationship for preventing pregnancy because she would be the “host.”

“I believe one of the breakdowns in our society is that we have excluded the man out of all of these types of decisions,” he said. “I understand that they feel like that is their body,” he said of women. “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,” he explained. “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.”

The bill, as well his description of women as hosts who “invited that in,” has provoked outrage from many corners.

Reproductive rights groups on Tuesday expressed outrage about the measure, which they said clashed with a 1992 Supreme Court decision striking down a Pennsylvania law that required a woman to get her husband’s permission before obtaining an abortion.

They said it could be particularly harmful in cases of domestic violence, when a woman may not be comfortable talking to her husband about such matters.

“It is shameful that Oklahoma politicians advanced this measure, which is demeaning, patently unconstitutional, and puts women in abusive relationships at risk,” Amanda Allen, senior state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “We call on the Oklahoma legislature to reject this outrageous measure and trust women to make their own health care decisions.”

Laura McQuade, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, called the bill “an affront to women’s autonomy and decision-making capacity, full-stop.”

The group, which provides services in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, has seen similar abortion-related legislation proposed in recent years, she said. It was Humphrey’s description of pregnant women as hosts that was most egregious to her.

“This legislator’s fundamental misunderstanding of human anatomy as well as what birth control is and does is shocking,” McQuade told The Washington Post. “It’s repugnant that we live in a world now that these types of comments are acceptable to say out loud.”

McQuade likened Humphrey’s comments to the moment in 2012 when then-congressman Todd Akin said that in the case of “legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

In response to the Oklahoma bill, McQuade said an online campaign that encouraged people to donate to Planned Parenthood Great Plains in Humphrey’s name had “started organically from supporters” Monday. The group has not yet tallied how much they had received as a result of the campaign, she said.

An earlier version of this story included a tweet from an account parodying Dr. Jill Biden, wife of former vice president Joe Biden. This post has been updated.

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