Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules “Personhood” Initiative “Clearly Unconstitutional”

Ballot initiative aimed to ban abortion, ban most contraception, and threaten fertility treatments

(PRESS RELEASE) The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that a proposed ballot initiative to define a fertilized egg as a person was “clearly unconstitutional” and cannot be added to the state ballot in November.

Initiative Petition 395 (State Question 761) was challenged in a lawsuit filed last month by the Center for Reproductive Rights as lead counsel, the American Civil Liberties Union, and local Oklahoma partners. The initiative aimed to effectively ban all abortions and many types of birth control—and severely threaten fertility treatments such as in-vitro fertilization.
 
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
 
“In this case, the Oklahoma Constitution said it best: It is not acceptable to propose amendments that are ‘repugnant to the Constitution of the United States.’
 
“This amendment would have run roughshod over the fundamental, constitutionally protected reproductive rights of all Oklahoma women. In affirming our request to strike it down, the court has struck a powerful blow against the repugnant tactics of those who seek to vote down the rights of others, and to enshrine their hostility to women’s lives, health, and rights in the laws of the land.”
 
The Center for Reproductive Rights brought the lawsuit on behalf of Oklahoma physicians who provide a range of reproductive health care to women in Oklahoma—including contraceptives, abortion care, prenatal care, and infertility treatment— as well as individual women who would have been affected by the amendment. 
 
The Center filed the suit, In re Initiative Petition No. 395, State Question No. 761, with Michelle Movahed as lead counsel, along with Talcott Camp of the ACLU Foundation; Anne Zachritz and Chelsea Smith; Martha Hardwick, Hardwick Law Office; and Ryan Kiesel of ACLU-Oklahoma Foundation.