Democratic Oklahoma Rep. Forrest Bennett told the public on Friday about a bill he filed placing more responsibility on fathers-to-be, apparently believing the legislation would hurt the pro-life movement.
Bennett’s fundamental misunderstanding of the pro-life movement and the debate surrounding abortion, however, flared up immediately online. And after the Democrat was swarmed with conservatives and pro-lifers bolstering his legislation, and pro-aborts trashing the bill, Bennett posting a lengthy 16-tweet thread backpedaling and apologizing.
“This week I filed HB3129, which codifies that a father’s financial responsibility to his baby & their mom begins at conception,” Bennett announced Friday. “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
Predictably, pro-lifers supported the idea that men need to support women they impregnate, and let Bennett know it:
Bruh. Not a single pro-life person is opposed to this. Welcome to our side. https://t.co/mmiPkkzXhn
— Chad Prather (@WatchChad) January 24, 2022
Formerly known as marriage. https://t.co/1uZUgJN410
— Katy Faust (@Advo_Katy) January 23, 2022
I endorse this! https://t.co/yzRR6ujrTb
— Kassy Dillon (@KassyDillon) January 22, 2022
These are acceptable terms. And if you want to argue (whether through policy or the bully pulpit) that mom and dad should be married before bringing baby into the world, we’ll take that too 🤝. https://t.co/74EQLbBoFR
— Delano Squires (@DelanoSquires) January 22, 2022
I know this is meant as a gotcha, but I don't think you will get too many pro-life people objecting to this… https://t.co/9hni5oodRe
— AG (@AGHamilton29) January 22, 2022
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
— Emily Zanotti (@emzanotti) January 22, 2022
— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) January 22, 2022
Hours later, Bennett posted a 16-tweet thread apologizing and announcing that the bill will be killed as it is. “I understand how the language in my message and bill both hurt the cause instead of helping it, and I apologize for not being more thoughtful,” he said in tweet 16. “Thanks again to everyone who genuinely engaged with me in an effort to make better policy.”
Here’s part of the the full backpedaling thread:
Well this has been fun. I appreciate those who understood the message behind this & those who provided sincere constructive feedback & pointed out serious issues with practical application. Also, great way to be reminded that 280 characters isn’t enough for some discussions.
I’m muting this now because I’ve read most if not all of the comments and I hear those who came here to help me understand angles to this that I hadn’t considered. I also hear those who came here to just be mean or condescending, and hey, it’s Twitter. What was I expecting?
Let me get this out of the way: 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. So to actual constituents of mine like @realmartypeercy who requested that I go back to the drawing board, I hear you.
I’ll own this: I should’ve been more thoughtful & thorough in crafting this bill in the first place. It’s clear there are many unintended consequences, both from the language & design. …
Twitter isn’t the place to try to point out that, *IF* this state outlaws abortion and *IF* it tries to define life as beginning at conception, it owes its people the kind of policy that supports & helps babies & parents, not just policies that force birth. But I tried to anyway.
This bill was supposed to do that, and again, while I appreciate those who see the sincere motivation behind it, I also acknowledge that it creates more problems. I seriously appreciate the thoughtful & constructive input I got from people who know what they’re talking about.
Then there’s the wording of this. 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.
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. We have to think practically.
It occurred to me after I sent it that I missed a great opportunity to use a platform that was created specifically for instances like this – where policymakers & constituents try discuss the minutiae of policy – & run into the challenges of doing so via social media.
… The idea for this bill came from a conversation with someone I care about who experienced being abandoned by her partner when she was pregnant. She said “he got to walk away from it. I didn’t. How is that fair?” It isn’t, and I wanted to help. But it’s not that easy & know that.
I understand how the language in my message and bill both hurt the cause instead of helping it, and I apologize for not being more thoughtful. Thanks again to everyone who genuinely engaged with me in an effort to make better policy.