Proposed Okla. 'Personhood' Ballot Measure Challenged in Court

March 30, 2012 — The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights on Thursday filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma Supreme Court seeking to block a proposed "personhood" measure from the state's November ballot, the AP/Columbus Republic reports. If enacted, the ballot measure would alter the state constitution to define a person as "any human being from the beginning of biological development to natural death."

The suit, filed on behalf of several Oklahoma doctors and residents, alleged that the amendment "would confer rights on a fertilized egg that trump the rights of each woman to determine whether and when to conceive and whether to carry a pregnancy to term." ACLU and CRR said that the amendment is unconstitutional, would ban abortion under all circumstances and would interfere with a woman's right to use certain forms of birth control and access certain medical procedures, such as in vitro fertilization.

"Let's save the taxpayers of Oklahoma the time and expense of collecting and verifying signatures, placing this question on the ballot and sending something that we know is unconstitutional to a vote of the people," Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of the ACLU's Oklahoma chapter, said.

Personhood Oklahoma, the antiabortion-rights group behind the ballot measure, launched an initiative petition on March 1 and has 90 days from that date to collect 155,000 signatures from registered Oklahoma voters. The group, which has said its goal is to tee up a challenge to Roe v. Wade and ultimately outlaw abortion, issued a statement condemning the court challenge.

A separate personhood measure (SB 1433) passed the Oklahoma Senate earlier this year and is pending in the House (Murphy, AP/Columbus Republic, 3/29).