By Jay Hansen
WARNING: The first part of this article contains strong language.
I’ve seen some piss poor legislation pass through the state of Oklahoma in the past, but none that has my emotions so enflamed as Senate Bill 1433, the Personhood Act. I will be creating a separate letter to write my state representatives, including the Governor, later on, but now I’ve got to unload here about this horrible, detestable, sickening piece of legislation that makes SOPA look like a fine use of paper.
The Personhood Act states that life begins at conception, outlawing abortion, stem-cell research, hormonal birth control (including the birth control pill), and in vitro fertilization. I’ve talked about it before on my website; it’s deplorable legislation that even the equally mislead and gullible people of Mississippi voted down in vast majority when put up to popular vote. Here in Oklahoma they aren’t even going to give it a chance to have a vote from the people because they know it will be at cataclysmic failure.
Look, the abortion and stem cell research debates have been going on for decades now, so I’m not here to talk about them (see my Ultimate Pro-Choice Argument for that). What’s absolutely sickening is that this bill will ban the primary form of birth control for women and in vitro fertilization. The Guttmacher Institute reports that 99% of all women use birth control, and 98% of Catholic women use it. As for just the birth control pill that will be outlawed by this legislation, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports over 80% of all women use it. The pill has become a staple in women’s lives now that if taken away could undo centuries of fighting for women’s rights.
An exaggeration? Hardly. First, the obvious; women can’t have safe sex without birth control. By outlawing it, women will no longer be able to have recreational sex, giving the state legislator, which is overwhelmingly male dominated, the power to control womens’ sex lives. Second, it flips society back to being blatantly and oppressively chauvinistic with men in control. Think about it; men will be able to have recreational sex with no consequences whatsoever. Their primary form of birth control, the condom, is still legal, and that’s assuming they actually use it. If they don’t, they can exhort massive control over a woman’s life by impregnating her. Even if the man doesn’t just leave her, which is a big “if,” that still means the woman’s life is completely derailed. Virtually everything she is striving for will be put on hold, be it an education or career, and forced to undergo a pregnancy she wouldn’t have otherwise had if it weren’t for the state forcing her into a submissive role that denies her from participating in society as an equal. This is all just as true for women in monogamous relationships, or those that are even married, as it is for single women. Married couples wait for the right time in their lives to have children, otherwise their family will be thrown into disarray financially, emotionally, and in every other way possible, and they use the birth control pill to prevent that from happening.
This is not the fucking Vatican people, and it’s not 19th century – it’s the God damn United States of America and the 21st century, a land and a time where women are supposed to be treated as equals and given equal opportunity. Apparently the Oklahoma State Senate, Republicans and Democrats alike (both voted for the bill), need to be reminded of that.
It’s downright fucking pathetic that I even have to explain why we need birth control to so many people.
But it doesn’t even end with the male oppression of women by way of pregnancy and completely ending a woman’s right to have safe, recreational sex. No no, this bill goes even farther than that. Personhood bills also endanger if not outlaw in vitro fertilization, a means by which women suffering from infertility can use to start a family. Approximately 6.1 million American women suffer from infertility, and in vitro fertilization resulted in the birth of 54,656 babies in 2009 that could not have been born otherwise. This law would legally ban these babies from being born.
And the people behind this bill call themselves “pro-life.”
As humorous as that line is, its implications are serious and revealing. This law will prevent tens of thousands of babies from being born, and it is being heralded as a victory of the “pro-life” community, whose goal is to “protect the unborn.” As I already highlighted in my essay on the topic, this same inconsistency of logic proves that these people are lying when they say they want to protect the unborn. It is very strong evidence that the pro-life community doesn’t care about the unborn at all, by literally outlawing a procedure that brings tens of thousands of babies into America each year, and to families who otherwise would never be able to have them. No, protecting the unborn is not their goal at all; their goal is to oppress women. They’ve gotten so brazen and cocky about it they don’t even bother to hide it anymore in legislation such as the Personhood Act.
I can only hope the judicial branch once again comes to our rescue and declares this legislation unconstitutional. Already in the past couple of years we’ve tried to outlaw Sharia Law here in Oklahoma, as well as cannibalism. Now, if that didn’t make our state enough of a laughing stock, we’re trying to outlaw the birth control pill and in vitro fertilization. I make no joke when I say we’re literally a few legislative sessions away from legally reinstituting actual witch hunts. They already tried to make homosexuality a crime in Texas (thanks Rick Perry), so don’t tell me it’s not possible, or that it won’t go that far. It’s already happened, and is still happening.
We must change political course in this state, and immediately. Given everything I’ve listed above, the INARGUABLE facts as to why this bill is a horrible idea, I’ve compiled a list of all State Senators that voted for this bill. They all, every single one of them, HATE WOMEN. I literally see no other reason as to why they would vote for it, outside of massive, and I mean MASSIVE, incompetence that makes them unfit to serve the public. As I stated earlier, 99% of women use birth control. Those legislators that support this bill are committing political suicide, and it’s our job to make damn sure they don’t get re-elected.
Here is the list of all State Senators to vote for the legislation, and should it come up for a vote in the House, you’d better believe I’m coming for them too.
The following State Senators voted for Senate Bill 1433, the Personhood Act, and thus HATE WOMEN (click their names for more detailed information):
Cliff Aldridge – Republican, District 42 (Midwest City, Choctaw), NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014.
Sean Burrage – Democrat, District 2 (Claremoore, Pryor) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
David Holt – Republican, District 30 (Oklahoma City, area Southwest of Lake Hefner) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Susan Paddack – Democrat, District 13 (Ada) Up for reelection in 2012 (Personal note: In case you’re wondering, she’s both a woman and a Democrat that voted for this bill).
Mark Allen – Republican, District 4 (Le Flore County, Sallisaw) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Greg Childers – Republican, District 43 (Del City, Valley Brook, portions of Moore, and portions of far Southeast Oklahoma City) Up for reelection in 2012
Tom Ivester – Democrat, District 26 (Elk City, Sayre, Mangum) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Mike Schulz – Republican, District 48 (Altus, Weatherford) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Patrick Anderson – Republican, District 19 (Enid) Up for reelection in 2012
Brian Crain – Republican, District 39 (Part of Tulsa, centralized near the intersection of Broken Arrow Expressway and I-44) Up for reelection in 2012
Rob Johnson – Republican, District 22 (Northern Canadian County, Southern Kingfisher County [Includes El Reno and Kingfisher]) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Ralph Shortey – Republican, District 44 (Part of Oklahoma City, centralized around SW 59th between Pennsylvania and Western) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Don Barrington – Republican, District 31 (Lawton) Up for reelection in 2012
Kim David – Republican, District 18 (Northeast Wagoner County, Southeast Mayes County) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Clark Jolley – Republican, District 41 (North Edmond [North of 15th Street]) Up for reelection in 2012 (Personal note: This is my representative in the State Senate. I specifically remember when he won office I wasn’t allowed to vote in that election because no Democrat ran, meaning registered Democrats did not get to vote. I’ve also written him numerous times but never once received a response).
Frank Simpson – Republican, District 14 (Murray County, Carter County, Love County, Southern Garvin County [Includes Ardmore and Sulphur]) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Brian Bingman – Republican, District 12 (Creek County, Northern Okfuskee County [Includes Sapulpa and Bristow]) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Jerry Ellis – Democrat, District 5 (Pushmataha County, McCurtain County, Choctaw County, Eastern Atoka County [Includes Valliant, Idabel, Hugo, Antiers, and Atoka]) Up for reelection in 2012
Ron Justice – Republican, District 23 (Southern Canadian County, Northeastern Caddo County, Southern Blaine County, Northwestern Grady County [Includes Chickasha, Anadarko, Watonga, and Union City]) Up for reelection in 2012
Gary Stanislawski – Republican, District 35 (Part of Tulsa, centralized near the intersection of S Harvard Ave and E 70th PL)
Cliff Branan – Republican, District 40 (Part of Oklahoma City, centralized near Portland and NW 39th Expressway, [Includes The Village and Nichols Hills]) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Eddie Fields – Republican, District 10 (Osage County, Pawnee County, Eastern Kay County, Eastern Payne County [Includes Pawnee, Newkirk, Pawhuska, and Yale]) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Bryce Marlatt – Republican, District 27 (Cimarron County, Texas County, Beaver County, Harper County, Woods County, Woodward County, Major County [Includes Woodward, Guymon, Alva, and Fairview]) Up for reelection in 2012
Anthony Sykes – Republican, District 24 (Eastern Grady County, All but Northwestern Stephens County, a very small piece of Northwestern Cleveland County [Large Cities: Moore, Duncan, and Newcastle]) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Josh Brecheen – Republican, District 6 (Southern Coal County, Western Atoka County, Bryan County, Marshall County, Johnston County [Includes Durant and Tishomingo]) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
John Ford – Republican, District 29 (All but Northeastern Craig County, Nowata County, Washington County [Includes Bartlesville]) Up for reelection in 2012
Mike Mazzei – Republican, District 25 (Portions of Tulsa, Broken Arrow) Up for reelection in 2012
Greg Treat – Republican, District 47 (South Edmond [South of 15th Street], Part of Oklahoma City North and West of Lake Hefner) Up for reelection in 2012
Rick Brinkley – Republican, District 34 (Northern Tulsa County, Southwestern Rogers County) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Earl Garrison – Democrat, District 9 (Muskogee County, Southwestern Wagoner County [Includes Muskogee and Fort Gibson]) Up for reelection in 2012
Dan Newberry – Republican, District 37 (Southern and Western Tulsa County) Up for reelection in 2012
Bill Brown – Republican, District 36 (Portions of Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Western Wagoner County) NOT up for re-election in 2012. Next re-election is 2014
Jim Halligan – Republican, District 21 (Western Payne County, Eastern Logan County, Western Lincoln County [Includes Stillwater, Perkins, and Guthrie]) Up for reelection in 2012
Jonathan Nichols – Republican, District 15 (Northern Cleveland, Southern McClain [Includes Part of Norman and Blanchard]) Up for reelection in 2012
If you live in any of these districts, or know people who do, spread the word as fast and powerfully as you can. These Senators HATE WOMEN, and we must make sure they do NOT WIN RE-ELECTION. Like I said earlier, 99% of women use birth control. It’s time for us to drop the hammer of consequences for them opposing, quite literally, the 99%!
Okay, that first part I wrote yesterday. Now that I’ve had a good day to calm down I can talk a bit more personally about this issue. We all have our own stories on certain legislation, and how it affects us personally. To start, I’ll let a friend of mine do most of the talking. She composed this letter to the State Senate, and honestly, I don’t think I could have done a better job myself.
I would like to start by thanking you for taking the time to read my correspondence. I have grave concerns about the direction Personhood takes our noble state in, and I would be amiss if I did not speak out.
I am a woman, but more important than my gender, I am a woman who relies on the availability of birth control. I do not rely on the availability of birth control to satisfy a need for promiscuous and numerous sexual encounters; on the contrary, I am in a committed, devoted relationship with a man I desperately hope to have children with when we are ready for that responsibility. I have a good job, as does my partner. I have an education, as does my partner. We will marry in the near future, and we will someday have a family.
However, this is something we should be able to do on our terms, and Personhood laws threaten our ability to do that by outlawing hormonal forms of birth control. Natural family planning and spermicides are not as effective as hormonal forms of contraception. According to Planned Parenthood, natural family planning shows a 24% failure rate among typical users, while spermicides used alone show a failure rate of 29%. I apologize, but those figures are unacceptable. Also, condoms are expensive – more expensive than birth control pills are on my health insurance.
The other benefit to my life is that the hormones in birth control allow me to live a normal life. I have severe ovarian cysts which cause tremendous – nearly unbearable pain – the week before and during my menstrual cycle. I have been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome as an adult with all the hormone imbalances that come with it. The hormones in birth control pills suppress the pre-menstrual symptoms and the cycle itself, allowing me to continue my regular routine. They allow me to go to work and school and participate in activities I would not be able to otherwise. I do not know if I would even have those organs in my body anymore if it were not for birth control; the cysts may have overpowered them long ago.
After all of that, I can only hope that I will be able to carry my beloved partner’s children. I fear we will not be able to conceive easily – if at all – without the help of dedicated medical professionals. I pray that we can, but rationally, I know our chances are not good. In-vitro fertilization might be our only chance to conceive and have a child of our own, and any pregnancy may put my life at risk. We will have to make choices that would be difficult under the best circumstances, and clearly, we will not be in the best circumstances.
My partner knows all of this information, and he has chosen to go through all of this with me. Is that not what family is about? Is that not the stable and loving relationship a child should be born into? I have chosen to share this very private and very personal information with you. It is important to me that I continue to have access to the medications and medical care that I need now and will need in the future.
I ask you to think of the fiscal responsibility we have to our state. More unwanted pregnancies mean more mothers and children on social programs that are already stretched thin. My partner and I could not support a child on our salaries; we would have to rely on social programs to pay medical bills and purchase necessities for the child. When I speak of the emotional needs and basic survival needs, I also know we have to consider the fiscal needs and the larger picture. I ask that if you consider nothing else I say you will consider that.
Please do not play a part in returning Women’s Rights to the age of “barefoot and pregnant”. This is the 21st century, and a great many of us are highly educated. It is no longer “our place”. Like you, we value our rights to privacy and self-determination.
There are many great points in her letter to which I myself can attest. First and foremost is the issue of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and other similar medical conditions. In my personal experience, I make no exaggeration in saying a majority of the women I know in my life either have this condition, know someone who does, or has a medical condition with similar symptoms. One of which is my own girlfriend, who had to stop using the birth control pill to regulate her symptoms due to conflict with other medications she takes. Because of this, her menstruation periods became excruciating and debilitating. She regularly has to call in sick to work during her menstruation or ovulation cycles the pain is so bad. There have even been times she is in so much pain she is unable to so much as get up out of bed or off the couch. It interrupts her work life and personal life, meaning she is less productive, has less enjoyment in life, and even loses money because of this condition that can be treated with the birth control pill. With the number of women I have seen in my own life suffering from this condition, all of society would suffer greatly if we lost the productivity these women contribute all thanks to the birth control pill, let alone all the enjoyment of life we would deny them. In the past, she has used the pill to regulate her symptoms, and it did help greatly with the pain, so there is no question that it works, and it is inarguable that the pill is used for much, much more than preventing pregnancy.
I know the State Senate claims the law will not be interpreted in a manner that bans the birth control pill, and that many pro-life legislators decry such claims as “fear tactics,” but the truth is that the bill can be interpreted that way, and that poses a problem. For example, many of you already know how much I opposed the National Defense Authorization Act. This act made it law that the military may act within the boarders of the United States, and arrest any US citizen they declare an “enemy combatant,” which they can do on a whim with no requirement of Habeas Corpus (evidence), without trial or due process. The President, as Commander and Chief, then has the authority to indefinitely detain US citizens who have committed no crime without a trial within the boarders of the United States. President Obama assured the public that “[His] Administration will interpret section 1021 [of the National Defense Authorization Act] in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.”
Even if Obama keeps this promise, which he hasn’t exactly been known for among liberals (and keep in mind he’s already ordered the assassination of US citizens abroad without trial or due process), the law will still be on the books for the next President. Obama’s Administration may not use the powers of this law, or interpret the law that way, but who’s to say the next President won’t? The fact that the law has been created only paves the way for someone to abuse it in the future who does interpret it this way. This exact same precedent is true for the Personhood Act. Even if the current state government does not use this law to ban birth control, it has created a means by which future state governments can do just that, and it is law that no presently operating Congress can dictate the decisions of future Congresses or sessions thereof, meaning no matter what you say about the law now, it’s meaningless because the current state legislator has no legal power to make decisions for future ones.
To justify our criticisms even more, let’s not forget how far self-proclaimed “pro-life” legislation (that is “pro-life” in title only) and supporters thereof are willing to go to restrict women’s freedom in their deluded quest to “protect the unborn.” In South Carolina, any woman who has a miscarriage is required to present evidence that they were not responsible for causing it, subjecting pregnant women to a very un-American system of guilty until proven innocent. If they cannot provide that evidence, they are arrested. Already over 300 women have been arrested in South Carolina alone, and other states like Mississippi have legislation that is now doing the same. Oklahoma, it would appear, is next on this list. So when we, as Oklahomans, read this law and find an interpretation that would ban the birth control pill and in vitro fertilization, don’t think that’s a farfetched interpretation or assumption. The so-called pro-life community is unscrupulous in the lengths they will go to restrict women’s freedom, in some cases quite literally by imprisoning them for something that is no more their fault than allowing their heart to beat. By banning birth control, these exact same pro-lifers can prevent women from having a sex life, reinstitute a male dominated society, prevent women from working or pursuing careers, prevent women from having control over their own lives, and undo centuries of work from the feminist movement, and with legislation that, at its surface, is far less insidious looking than having women arrested for miscarriage. So presuming that oppressing women is an intention of this bill is not only not farfetched, but quite apt given what we’ve seen from the “pro-life” community.
Oh yeah, and let’s not forget that a judge has already said that Personhood legislation could ban the birth control pill and in vitro fertilization. That’s kind of a big reason why we think it does just that.
But that’s not even the whole story. Let’s not forget that this bill will also outlaw in vitro fertilization. Since life begins at conception, as defined by this bill, and in vitro fertilization involves fertilizing an egg before implantation, in vitro fertilization could be greatly restricted, if not outlawed altogether. Say a doctor is unable to successfully implant a fertilized egg and no attachment to the uterine wall occurs. Could that doctor suffer legal consequences for violating the rights of a human being, since the egg counts as a US citizen that has been “killed?” This law, then, this “pro-life” law, as I’ve already stated, will actually prevent the births of tends of thousands of children.
I fear if I say much more on this topic I’ll just end up repeating myself again and again. These facts are so obvious and so stunning it’s impossible to say this bill isn’t just flat out wrong. I don’t even understand how there could be an argument for it. Never in my life have I been so sure that a single piece of legislation is just wrong as this type of Personhood legislation threatening to throw American society back to the 19th century. Never has one piece of legislation that has come so close to passing made me so angry at conservatives, so scared for the future and progress of humanity, and just so horribly depressed all at the same time.
This bill depresses me on a deeply personal level. I have kept this story to only myself and my partner, but much like my friend in the letter she shared, I too have a condition that could make conceiving a child very difficult through normal means. Sexual contact through standard penetration is often very painful for me because of this condition, meaning standard conception may not be feasible. Lacking medical insurance largely due to pre-existing conditions means I can neither treat my condition nor measure the fertility of my sperm. It’s very much possible that in vitro fertilization, or some other form of alternative conception, could be my only route of starting a family. With infertility rates on the rise, this legislation could do real harm to real people and families in immeasurable ways by banning one of if not the leading alternative means of conceiving a child.
My depression from this bill goes even deeper than simple physical ailments, however. I have always been of an unorthodox, unique gender identity, and it is primarily caused by something I refer to as male guilt. I get the term from the psychological condition called survivor’s guilt, where a survivor of some sort of catastrophe like a plane crash feels guilty that they got to live, but all the people around them had to die. In that same light, I often feel guilty or even depressed for simply being born a male because I am not subject to the same pains, be they imposed by society or my own body, as women. I always feel guilty because of how horribly women have been treated by men historically, and now, through policies such as the Personhood Act, are still treated today.
I may feel guilt and depression at not experiencing the same physical pains or societal pressures women undergo, but at least that’s something that can’t be helped. Laws like the Personhood Act can be helped. Laws like the Personhood Act shouldn’t be. While my issues regarding my personal identity aren’t exactly directly related to the issue of Personhood legislation, it intensifies my guilt by association with the male gender and brings me great shame, as such laws should every single legislator that supports them. I can’t help my feelings about my gender – feelings so strong they have forced me to draw my own gender identity into question – but I can do whatever it takes to stop oppressive Personhood laws. Every one of the Senators I listed above should be forced to carry this burden of shame that I uncontrollably have my entire life for knowing that they were the ones who took the first step to throw Oklahoma back into the Dark Ages, starting with women’s rights.
It’s up to us to make sure this bill does not go any further, and that those who have voted for it suffer the consequences and lose their next reelection.
God help us all.