© 2024 KGOU
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Oklahoma embryos could become victims of battery, assault under new legislation

Suhyeon Choi

A bill that would allow Oklahomans to be charged with battery against an unborn child passed another legislative hurdle Tuesday. Opponents of the bill expressed concerns that the bill’s impacts could extend to fertility treatments.

Currently, Oklahoma law states that any person who knows a woman is pregnant and commits domestic abuse against her can be charged with a misdemeanor. House Bill 3002, authored by Rep. Rande Worthen (R-Lawton) and Sen. Darrell Weaver (R-Moore), would extend rights to a woman’s unborn child, saying it could also be a victim of battery, and aggravated assault and battery.

Battery is defined as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” Assault is “any willful and unlawful attempt or offer with force or violence to do a corporal hurt to another.” Both become aggravated when:

  • Great bodily injury is inflicted upon the person assaulted, which refers to bone fracturing, protracted and obvious disfigurement, protracted loss or impairment of the function of a body part, organ or mental faculty, or substantial risk of death.
  • When committed by a person of robust health or strength upon one who is aged, decrepit, or incapacitated. 

Weaver said there is no gestational limit for when an unborn child could be considered a victim under HB 3002. The bill also doesn’t require proof that the person committing the act “had knowledge or should have had knowledge the victim was pregnant.”
Weaver said the bill is intended to allow Oklahomans to receive separate assault and battery charges for acts against a mother and their unborn child. Opponents of the bill said they’re concerned it would have other unintended impacts.

Sen. Michael Brooks (D-Oklahoma City) expressed concerns about potential impacts on fertility treatments, like in vitro fertilization (IVF), saying an unlawful use of force could apply in situations where damage occurs to an embryo during treatments.

The discussion was prompted by the impacts of a recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling, which defined frozen embryos as children. The court’s decision prompted fertility clinics to shut down because they feared lawsuits or prosecution.

“If something goes wrong with an IVF treatment, who would make the assessment or the decision whether or not that embryo consented to that touching or if that was an unlawful use of force?” Brooks said.

Weaver said the bill isn't intended to impact access to treatments like IVF.

“I think that you're stretching it just about as far as you can with this. … To think that, if somebody went in for that type of procedure, then they tried to blame somebody for touching, I can't really connect those dots,” Weaver said. “I don't think it has anything to do with this bill.”

Senate Judiciary Chair Brent Howard (R-Altus) asked Weaver to work on the bill with him to address concerns surrounding it before it goes to the Senate floor. The bill passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee with a vote of 8-2.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Jillian Taylor reports on health and related topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
More News
Support nonprofit, public service journalism you trust. Give now.