October 30, 2012 — The Supreme Court on Monday refused without comment to hear an appeal by an antiabortion group to place a "personhood" measure on the Oklahoma ballot, Reuters reports (Baynes, Reuters, 10/29).
The measure would have asked Oklahoma voters whether the state should give "inherent rights" to any individual from the "beginning of biological development to the end of natural life." Opponents said the measure would outlaw abortion in the state, ban some types of contraception and jeopardize the legality of in-vitro fertilization.
In April, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the proposal was unconstitutional and void because it would violate women's right to an abortion. Personhood USA's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court claimed that by rejecting the petition the state court violated citizens' First Amendment and 10th Amendment rights (Women’s Health Policy Report, 8/1).
"Today's rejection by the highest court in the nation is yet another resounding message to the opponents of reproductive freedom that such extremist assaults on our fundamental rights will not stand," Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. CRR was one of several groups that sued earlier this year to keep the amendment off the ballot.
Northup added, "Pure and simple, these (personhood) tactics are an affront to our nation's Constitution and a bald-faced attempt to foreclose women's access to a full range of reproductive health care."
Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel, the law firm representing Personhood Oklahoma, denied that the court's decision sets a precedent on personhood measures. Rather, he said, the court decided not to review "whether a state court can interfere with the rights of citizens to gather signatures to amend their constitutions" (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 10/29).
Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, said the group will continue to promote personhood measures in Oklahoma and other states (Reuters, 10/29).
Time to 'Move on' From Personhood Issue, Editorial States
"Now that the [personhood] measure seems definitely doomed, it would be refreshing if our leaders would get to work on such pressing matters as education, infrastructure and health care," a Tulsa World editorial states, adding, "It would be nice if the political posturing would ratchet down." The editorial concludes, "But of course, we all know that's not going to happen. So look for more of the same" (Tulsa World, 10/30).