Marion Bae, FISM News
A self-described “pragmatic progressive” state representative in Oklahoma has recently come under fire for a bill he filed that had strikingly conservative undertones.
Last Friday, Congressman Forrest Bennett (D) took to his Twitter account to announce that he filed bill HB3129, which, “codifies that a father’s financial responsibility to his baby and their mom begins at conception,” he added, “If Oklahoma is going to restrict a woman’s right to choose, we sure better make sure the man involved can’t just walk away from his responsibility.
This week I filed HB3129, which codifies that a father’s financial responsibility to his baby & their mom begins at conception.
If Oklahoma is going to restrict a woman’s right to choose, we sure better make sure the man involved can’t just walk away from his responsibility.
— Forrest Bennett (@ForrestBennett) January 21, 2022
His original tweet received nearly five-thousand comments, many of them from pro-life conservatives supporting the bill. Conservatives were quick to point out how Bennett was ironically espousing viewpoints at the heart of the pro-life message – specifically that life begins at conception.
Robby Starbuck, a Republican running for Tennessee Congress, responded succinctly when he said, “So your bill admits that life does begin at conception, that men = biological men and it acknowledges that having a baby is a shared responsibility between a man and the woman who’s pregnant? Great work. We love it. This isn’t the own you think it is Forrest!”
So your bill admits that life does begin at conception, that men = biological men and it acknowledges that having a baby is a shared responsibility between a man and the woman who’s pregnant? Great work. We love it. This isn’t the own you think it is Forrest! https://t.co/4QvLCECozD
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) January 22, 2022
Oklahoma House Majority Leader, Josh West (R), quipped that he would make sure that the bill would get a hearing on the House floor.
I’ll be assigning bills tomorrow morning. I’m going to make sure this bill gets a hearing. Who knew Forrest was such a champion for pro life?
— Rep. Josh West (@JoshWestOKHD5) January 22, 2022
The bill itself was an attempt to keep fathers equally financially accountable for their children as mothers, at conception not birth. This is a concept that conservatives – who generally view the nuclear family as essential to child development and society – would rally around.
The bill states, “Except as otherwise provided in this section, the biological father of a child has a duty to pay fifty percent (50%) of the mother’s pregnancy expenses.” This would include, “medical costs related to the pregnancy, incurred after the date of conception and before the pregnancy ends.” The expenses can be paid retroactively, after the child is born, including in cases where paternity is unknown.
Bennet said that he had introduced the bill saying the idea came from “someone [he] cares about who experienced being abandoned by her partner when she was pregnant.” Bennett was quick to backtrack, though, once it became apparent that his bill didn’t fall along party lines.
After getting slammed by members of his own party, Bennett quickly tried to do damage control through a series of tweets, saying that his bill had “unintended consequences.”
One tweet read, “Obviously I’m not moving forward with this bill as written. I’m glad many of you understood the idea but it clearly needs work.”
Another stated: “Many of you got the subtext that Oklahoma is champing at the bit to outlaw abortion & define life as beginning at conception. But if you didn’t, you might think I want those things. I do not,” adding, “Planning for that possible reality is important though, because as those of us who believe in abortion access fight for it, we also need to mitigate the consequences of legislation that pushes us in the other direction.”
The “subtext” is a reference to recent bills proposed by Republicans in the state, including one that mirrors the controversial Texas abortion law that was passed last year. It was also an attempt to prod Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt who is staunchly pro-life.
In a post on Apr. 27th, Stitt had said, “I will continue to keep my promise and sign every piece of pro-life legislation that hits my desk. Today, that’s SB 918. I am proud to be called the most pro-life governor!”
I will continue to keep my promise and sign every piece of pro-life legislation that hits my desk.
Today, that's SB 918.
I am proud to be called the most pro-life governor! pic.twitter.com/MYwem6JOMJ
— Governor Kevin Stitt (@GovStitt) April 27, 2021