May 1, 2012

Oklahoma Personhood Case to be Appealed to U.S. Supreme Court

Oklahoma City, OK – The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the ballot initiative on personhood yesterday as unconstitutional under the federal Constitution, before it was even placed before the voters. In its two-page opinion, the court held that the proposed personhood amendment violated the Fourteenth Amendment as interpreted in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Personhood Oklahoma, the sponsor of the initiative, was represented by Liberty Counsel. 

The proposed amendment would have defined “person” as “any human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being to natural death.” 

The Oklahoma attorney general had approved the ballot title and summary of the initiative after rewriting a portion of it, and Personhood Oklahoma was in the process of gathering signatures in order to place the issue before the voters at the November election, when the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and others filed a legal challenge. Briefs were filed on April 20, and ten days later, on April 30, the court found the initiative unconstitutional. 

“The court’s actions here were premature at best and profoundly overreaching at worst,” said Steve Crampton, Vice President for Legal Affairs and General Counsel for Liberty Counsel, who served as lead counsel for Personhood Oklahoma in the case. “This proposed amendment did nothing more than define a term in the state constitution and would not have immediately impacted abortion. Moreover, the people of Oklahoma are constitutionally guaranteed the power to propose laws and amendments to the constitution. This ruling effectively nullifies that right and denies the citizens of Oklahoma their right to vote on the matter,” Crampton stated. 

Personhood Oklahoma will appeal the ruling to the United States Supreme Court. This will be the first “personhood” case to be brought before the Supreme Court. It thus presents an historic opportunity for the Court to address the issue of a state’s right to amend its own constitution to acknowledge what science has long recognized, that human life begins from the moment of conception or fertilization and should be protected in law from its earliest beginnings. 

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.



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