Lawmakers say “Personhood Bill” not dead yet

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Several state legislators stood side by side Monday at the Capitol, claiming a controversial measure is not dead yet.

It was thought to be the end of the line last week for the "Personhood Bill," Senate Bill 1433, which states life begins at conception and gives embryos the full rights of any other person.

Members of the House Republican Caucus privately voted last week to deny the Personhood Bill a vote on the House floor.

Legislators said they know they can't overturn the federal abortion law, Roe v. Wade, but they're determined to have state law recognize life beginning at conception.

They have an initiative petition drive that is collecting signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.

"I believe Oklahomans are overwhelmingly in support of the Personhood initiative, which says life begins at conception," Rep. Mike Reynolds (R - Oklahoma City) said.

"We're pro-life. We want a vote on this bill," Rep. Gus Blackwell (R - Laverne) said. "We demand a vote so our constituents can see that what we say, we back up with a green light on this bill."

Others expressed their anger at House Speaker Kris Steele, blaming him for killing the bill.

"Since he (Steele) didn't want to put it on the board, (we hope) the next motion would be that we remove the Speaker and get rid of the tyranny that we're having a problem with in the House of Representatives," Rep. Mike Christian (R - Oklahoma City) said.

"It's on the agenda," Reynolds said of the bill. "All he (Steele) has to do is recognize her."

When asked if Reynolds will try to influence the Speaker to recognize the bill, Reynolds replied, "Absolutely. Not just me, but hopefully thousands of Oklahoma citizens."

The bill has plenty of opponents, including Dr. Eli Reshef with the Integris Bennett Fertility Institute.

"We as physicians do not want to go to jail for handling embryos," he said.

Reshef has pictures of babies on his office wall that were born via in vitro fertilization, a practice he said is jeopardized by the Personhood Bill.

"You cannot define life and then make an exception for in vitro fertilizations," he said. "It's very much like doing, 'speed limit is 55, but for you people, it's 85.' It's illegal. It's unconstitutional."

Thursday is the last day the Personhood Bill could get a vote on the House floor.

John Estus, Press Secretary for House Speaker Kris Steele, released this statement:

"The caucus was polled via the whip system again Monday and their decision again was to not bring Senate Bill 1433 up for a floor vote at this time. The decision was made by the caucus collectively with incredibly deep respect for life and for the statement the bill makes. This was not a decision made by Speaker Steele individually and claims otherwise are false. Speaker Steele will continue to take direction from the caucus on this issue as he does with other issues. There is no doubt the House is an incredibly pro-life body, given the passage of four other pro-life measures this year and more than 30 other pro-life measures in the past eight years alone."