Supreme Court Turns Away Case on Oklahoma 'Personhood' Amendment

Article excerpt

The US Supreme Court on Monday declined an invitation to examine whether the Oklahoma Supreme Court acted correctly when it struck down a proposed personhood amendment that sought to grant state constitutional protections to human embryos starting at conception.

The justices turned aside the appeal in a one-line order without comment. The case was Personhood Oklahoma v. Barber (12-145).

The appeal stemmed from an April 30, 2012, ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which invalidated a proposed statewide ballot initiative that aimed to define a fertilized egg as a person with full rights to due process and equal treatment.

The personhood measure sought to establish that the fertilized egg/person could not be denied equal protection because of age, place of residence, or medical condition.

Opponents attacked the ballot initiative as an attempt to ban abortion in Oklahoma in violation of US Supreme Court precedents upholding the constitutionality of the procedure.

They said the amendment, if adopted, would confer rights on a fertilized egg that would trump the rights of women to decide whether and when to conceive and whether to carry a pregnancy to term.

Lawyers representing the opponents argued that in addition to banning abortion, the amendment would block use of many forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization.

The Oklahoma high court agreed with the opponents, ruling the ballot question void on its face.

The court said the proposed measure was clearly unconstitutional under the US Supreme Courts 1992 decision upholding abortion rights under the US Constitution in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Antiabortion supporters of the personhood initiative challenged the Oklahoma Supreme Courts decision, saying that the court should have allowed the measure and the political process surrounding it to move forward to a statewide vote before confronting the hypothetical question of whether an enacted amendment would clash in every respect with the US Constitution.

It would appear that no further discussion or vote will be allowed if opponents can raise one hypothetical application that would conflict with federal law if the proposed amendment were passed, wrote Mathew Staver, a lawyer for the personhood initiative, in a brief urging the Supreme Court to take up the case. …