Religious leaders and lawmakers gathered at the Oklahoma statehouse on Monday to demand that the state House vote on the Oklahoma Personhood Act, legislation to grant embryos full rights as people from the moment of conception.
"As Baptists we uphold the value and sanctity of life,” said Dan Fisher, Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon. "We believe that life should be protected from the moment of conception, and we believe that anything that stops that other than a natural process is the unnecessary ending of life that is called murder."
The anti-abortion activists warned that any lawmaker who refused to support the legislation would be branded as "pro-abortion," according to the Associated Press.
The legislation passed in the state Senate in February by a 34-8 vote. However, Oklahoma House Speaker Kris Steele and the State House Republican Caucus decided not to bring it to the House floor for a vote.
"The pro-life community in Oklahoma is stunned and dismayed by that behavior of the House Republican caucus," Kevin Calvey, vice chairman of Oklahomans for Life, told the Associated Press. "Many cannot even believe it's legal to vote in secret to kill this bill without going on the record in public about it."
The legislation would grant fertilized eggs and embryos the same constitutional rights as people, thereby completely prohibiting a woman from terminating her pregnancy, even in cases of incest or rape. If enacted, the legislation would set up a legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, which upheld a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy until the fetus is viable outside the womb.
Critics of the legislation claimed that it would do more than just outlaw abortion. The ACLU of Oklahoma said it would also affect common birth control methods, the treatment of ectopic pregnancy, in vitro fertilization treatment, and stem cell research. However, lawmakers introduced a slew of amendments to the bill meant to narrow its focus solely to abortion.
Republicans in state legislatures across the country have pushed for tighter restrictions on abortions, such as requiring ultrasounds before a woman can terminate her pregnancy or mandating a waiting period.
Thanks to their electoral victories in 2010, conservative lawmakers successfully enacted 92 measures aimed at restricting abortion in 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute.