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Oklahoma Republican Pushes Unconstitutional ‘Spousal Consent’ Law

Teddy Wilson

Though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that “spousal consent” requirements are unconstitutional, anti-choice state lawmakers continue to push the measures.

An Oklahoma GOP lawmaker has pre-filed legislation that would require a person to secure signed consent from the father of the fetus prior to receiving abortion care.

HB 1441, sponsored by Rep. Justin Humphrey (R-Lane), would prohibit the medical procedure from being performed in Oklahoma “without the written informed consent of the father of the fetus.”

The bill would require the person seeking abortion care to provide, in writing, the identity of the fetus’ father to the physician who would perform the procedure. There is an exception if the pregnancy resulted from “rape or incest,” or if the physician determines the pregnant person’s “life is in danger.”

Humphrey is a freshman lawmaker who supports the priorities of Oklahomans for Life, according to the organization’s candidate survey. Oklahomans for Life is the state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee, an anti-choice legislation mill.

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The U.S. Supreme Court in 1976 ruled that “spousal consent” requirements are unconstitutional in Planned Parenthood v. Danforth. The Court in 1992 struck down spousal notice requirements as unconstitutional in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Despite such anti-choice measures being struck down by the courts, anti-choice lawmakers in several states have sought to require “spousal consent” in recent years.

Former Alaska Rep. Alan Dick (R-Stony River) said in 2012 that he supported criminalizing people who had an abortion without the knowledge of a male partner, but that he would be comfortable if “the man’s signature was required … in order for a woman to have an abortion.”

Missouri Rep. Keith English (I-Florissant) lamented in 2013 that a bill he introduced that would require forced counseling prior to an abortion had too many “loopholes” and should have included a requirement for “spousal consent.”

A year later a pair of bills was introduced in the Missouri house that required a person to “provided written, notarized consent” from the father of the fetus prior to terminating a pregnancy.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) considered regulations last year that would have required a married woman to obtain signed consent from her husband before she could receive abortion care.

Backlash from reproductive rights advocates led to the state to rescind the proposal, which was characterized by state officials as an “error.”

The Oklahoma legislative session convenes February 6, and Oklahoma lawmakers have already pre-filed more than a dozen anti-choice bills.

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