OKLAHOMA CITY – A Republican state senator from Oklahoma City introduced a bill Tuesday that would ban the use of aborted human fetuses in food, despite conceding that he's unaware of any company using such a practice.
Freshman Sen. Ralph Shortey said his own Internet research led him to believe such a ban is necessary and prompted him to offer the bill aimed at raising "public awareness" and giving an "ultimatum to companies" that might consider such a policy.
Shortey said he discovered suggestions online that some companies use embryonic stem cells to develop artificial flavors, but added that he is unaware of any Oklahoma companies doing such research.
In an e-mail to The Associated Press, U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Pat El-Hinnawy said: "FDA is not aware of this particular concern."
The executive director of the anti-abortion group Oklahomans for Life, which has successfully pushed some of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country through the state's GOP-controlled Legislature, also said he had never heard of human fetuses being used in food research.
"I don't know anything about that," said Tony Lauinger.
Shortey's bill would prohibit the manufacture or sale of any food in which aborted fetuses were used to develop any of the ingredients.
Meanwhile, the bill has caused a stir among Oklahoma lawmakers, many decrying the proposed legislation.
Self-described "pro-life" Sen. Brian Crain, the chairman of the Senate Human Services Committee to which Shortey's bill likely would be assigned, said Tuesday other issues are more deserving of the Legislature's attention.
"We've got too many challenges facing Oklahomans today. We don't need to go looking for possible challenges that may come about sometime in the future," said Crain, R-Tulsa. "If it can be demonstrated that this is a challenge facing our food supply, then I think we need to act quickly, but there's been no demonstration that this is going on.
"I'd hate to think we're going to spend our time coming up with possibilities of things we need to stop."
First elected in 2010 to a heavily Hispanic district on the city's south side, Shortey has grabbed headlines with other bills he's introduced that have not become law. He sponsored a measure last year to crack down on illegal immigrants by authorizing law enforcement to seize their homes and vehicles, and to deny Oklahoma citizenship to babies born to illegal immigrants. He also offered an amendment to a bill that would have allowed legislators to carry firearms anywhere in the state, including the floor of the House and Senate.
This year, Shortey has introduced a bill seeking a public vote on amending the Oklahoma Constitution to abolish the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy