U.S. Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Personhood Oklahoma Appeal


On Monday the Supreme Court rejected without comment a bid by Personhood Oklahoma to place a proposed initiative on the Oklahoma ballot that would grant person-hood rights to fertilized human eggs, handing yet another judicial rebuke to the person-hood movement.

In April the Oklahoma Supreme Court forcefully and unanimously blocked the measure that would have asked voters to amend the state constitution to expand the definition of person to include fertilized eggs, and thereby grant fertilized eggs full and equal protection under the law. Calling the measure “clearly unconstitutional” the state’s high court called the proposal “void on its face” and ordered it stricken from the November ballot.

Personhood Oklahoma appealed that order to the United States Supreme Court, arguing the Oklahoma Supreme Court was wrong to block its proposed initiative from the ballot and that doing so amounted to a violation of person-hood supporters’ rights to free speech. The matter had been successfully blocked at the state court level just as supporters argue they were gathering the signatures necessary to place it on the ballot. Personhood Oklahoma argues that instead of blocking the measure, the Oklahoma Supreme Court should have allowed the voters of Oklahoma and the state legislature to vote on the matter before considering its constitutionality.

In rejecting the group’s appeal the Supreme Court made clear it was not interested in second-guessing the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s judgment as to whether the initiative should go on the ballot. And while not the same thing as endorsing or affirming the reasoning of the Oklahoma Supreme Court that found the idea of banning abortion via person-hood initiatives “repugnant to the Constitution,” the refusal by the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the issue is still a win for reproductive rights advocates because it takes the issue out of play for the time being.

“Pure and simple, these 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” said Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights in a statement.

The case is Personhood Oklahoma v. Barber et al, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-145.

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