Technically, Leap Year is an every-four-years calendar correction of the Earth's 365.242-day orbit. But over the centuries, Leap Year and especially Leap Day -- Feb. 29 -- has carried with it a mystical baggage of myths, blessings, curses and traditions.
An Irish Leap Day custom, which came to roost in American tradition as Sadie Hawkins Day, flipped dating and mating rituals on their heads for that one special day. On Leap Day, an Irish woman could ask a man for his hand in marriage -- and he had to say yes. If he said no anyway, he was required to pay restitution to the woman in gowns or cash.
To boost revenues every four years, Tulsa could consider making this a splashy downtown 5K run, with women chasing T-Town's most eligible bachelors from Cain's Ballroom to Boston Avenue United Methodist Church. Now that's a fun run event we might actually show up to watch.
Once our lovely ladies chase down a few special fellas, they'll have to pay close attention to what birth control she chooses. With the passage of a controversial new bill, SB 1433, Leap Year 2012 has seen the biggest uproar over women's rights since the swingin' '60s.
Personhood for Okie Zygotes
The Oklahoma Senate passed an amendment that defines personhood as beginning at the moment of conception. Governor Mary Fallin, who just last year signed seven bills into law that restrict women's reproductive rights, will likely sign the amendment into law.
The personhood amendment will effectively outlaw abortion and many forms of birth control, up to and including emergency contraception like Plan B. The Republican majority voted 34 to eight to approve the bill, which gives unborn cells "the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents" beginning at the very moment of conception "until birth at every stage of biological development."
This election year wedge issue is being pushed onto states' agendas by Personhood USA, an anti-abortion group in Arvada, Colo. The organization has started up petition drives for personhood amendments in many states.
The "personhood" movement is part of a tactical strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade. The ideology behind the personhood amendment seems uniquely suited to Oklahoma, where even our waving wheat votes Republican. Republican state Sen. Brian Bingman said, "Oklahoma is a conservative pro-life state" and "this bill is one of many Senate Republicans have advanced which affirms the right to life and I am proud to support it."
On Jezebel, one of the top blogs on women's issues, they wrote, "It seems only appropriate that [near Valentine's Day] Republican legislators across the country would show how much they love women by passing laws requiring them to get vaginal probes before having abortions, or stating an official preference for the dumb whims of a developing fetus over the conscious will of the woman carrying the fetus."
But Tulsa ladies support the rights of fertilized eggs, embryos, zygotes and fetuses. State Farm sales manager Anna Smith explained her thoughts: "A baby is a baby, one day developed or nine months developed... There are options, there is adoption, there are many other options."
T-Towners Embarrassed, Angry
Shane Hood, designer and owner of new Deco District shop HOOD Design, said the new personhood amendment "is embarrassing."
"If it is a person -- or if it's not -- the woman carrying it still has complete and absolute autonomy of her own body, including any person residing therein. And there is no law or principle that should override that," said Glenpool artist, writer and designer Marty Coleman.
Keeley Mancuso, who owns Nirvana Body & Soul, said she'd prefer Oklahoma legislators focus on more pressing social issues. "I wish [the Oklahoma legislature] would focus on unemployment, child abuse and other issues affecting the people already on the planet," Mancuso said.
The biggest point of contention in the "personhood" amendment comes back to religion. "This question always comes back to religious beliefs, which have no place in politics," said Clear Channel Radio morning show producer Brett Thompson.
With Oklahoma's overwhelmingly Christian population, the state's separation between church and state has become a very fine and tangled line at best.
Tulsa chef Amanda Simcoe, who creates lovely specialty cheeses at The Cheese Wench, is outraged because she thinks the Oklahoma Senate has overstepped its bounds with the personhood amendment. "We can sit and argue 'personhood' all day but we all know that the real issue here is abortion," she said.
"Don't like abortion? Don't get one. Are you really so arrogant to think that your personal beliefs are more important than anyone else's," Simcoe asked.
"This country was founded on the principle that religion and government should remain separate, and one should not interfere with the other, period," she said. Simcoe said her own mother was adopted, "so I am acutely aware that my very existence was made possible by the fact that an unplanned pregnancy resulted in adoption, not abortion," Simcoe said.
She believes "a fetus becomes a person when it is capable of surviving outside the womb. Until that point, while it may be a living organism, it is still just an extension of the mother, relying on her body to keep it alive. While it may temporarily play host to a developing human, it is still her body, and [no one] should have the ability to take away her freedom to treat it as such," she said.
Whether this amendment stands or is later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, Leap Year 2012 has already spun Oklahoma into a frenzy over women's rights. Leap Day may have been an Irish day of celebrating female empowerment, but Oklahoma would prefer to empower embryos over women any day.
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