Culture & the Family

Ray Carter | February 9, 2023

Oklahoma lawmakers approve bill declaring woman means woman

Ray Carter

Members of an Oklahoma Senate committee have advanced legislation to standardize state law and ensure that all references to women in statute are explicitly defined as individuals declared female at birth.

Senate Bill 408, by state Sen. Jessica Garvin, creates the “Women’s Bill of Rights.” The text of the legislation states that its purpose is “to bring clarity, certainty, and uniformity under the laws of this state with respect to natural persons of both biological sexes and the manner in which they are treated as such under the laws of this state.”

“This simply codifies the definition of a biological male and a biological female,” said Garvin, R-Duncan.

The legislation defines “female” throughout Oklahoma statutes to mean “a natural person whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova,” and defines “male” to mean “a natural person whose biological reproductive system is developed to fertilize the ova of a female.” The bill also defines “sex” to refer to “a natural person’s biological sex at birth.”

SB 408 also states, “Any policy, program, or statute that prohibits sex discrimination is to be construed to forbid unfair treatment of females or males in relation to similarly situated members of the opposite sex. The state or its political subdivisions shall not be prohibited from establishing distinctions between sexes when such distinctions are substantially related to an important government objective including but not limited to biology, privacy, safety, or fairness in locations and circumstances such as prisons or other detention facilities, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, athletics and locker rooms, and restrooms.”

The legislation also requires that any state entity that “collects vital statistics for the purpose of gathering accurate public health, crime, economic or other data shall identify any natural person who is part of the collected data as either male or female” as defined in the bill.

Garvin said she carried the legislation in part because of concern regarding the long-term accuracy of health-related data.

“Last year, in the middle of session, my mom began a battle with cancer,” Garvin said. “And during that time, when we were looking at treatment options for her there were many out there but her doctors specifically let her know that based on her biological sex that there were options that were better for her because she was a female and that they would potentially lead to better outcomes.”

Had accurate data not been collected on patients’ sex and treatment outcomes, Garvin said that discrepancy could have skewed the results and impacted the recommended course of treatment for people like her mother. She said doctors may feel pressured to report outcomes based on a patient’s self-proclaimed gender identity rather than birth sex if state law does not require them to do otherwise.

Garvin said she has discussed the legislation with several doctors and all were supportive of the bill.

State Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, also noted the need for health data to be based on a patient’s sex at birth.

“Diseases are horrible and they attack,” Murdock said. “They don’t care what social status you are or what you believe you are, they still attack the human body.”

Freedom Oklahoma, a group that advocates for transgender causes, opposed SB 408, declaring that it “explicitly opens the door for trans discrimination in carceral facilities, interpersonal violence direct services, shelters, and more.”

But one lawmaker cited the bill’s impact on domestic violence shelters as a good reason to support it.

“I worked in domestic violence and sexual-assault prevention in the shelter, so when I saw this bill, I really appreciated the spirit of it,” said state Sen. Ally Seifried, R-Claremore. “Because working with victims in the shelter and being on the administrative staff, we had to have a plan in place for different instances. And so I appreciated that domestic violence shelters were included because the shelter that I worked at was 35 beds of women and children, and it’s really important to have a safe space while they’re healing.”

SB 408 passed the Senate General Government Committee on an 8-2 vote.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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