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07.30.12 - (PRESS RELEASE) Rushing ahead of even the most extreme recent attempts to incrementally chip away the constitutionally protected reproductive rights of women across the U.S., proponents of an Oklahoma ballot initiative that would give every fertilized human egg the full rights and protections of a person are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a unanimous decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court blocking the measure.
Initiative Petition 395 (State Question 761)—which would have completely banned abortion under all circumstances, effectively outlawed many forms of contraception, and severely threatened fertility treatments such as in-vitro fertilization—was challenged in a lawsuit filed in March by the Center for Reproductive Rights as lead counsel, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and local Oklahoma partners. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled unanimously in April that the proposed initiative was “clearly unconstitutional” and could not be added to the state ballot.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“The proponents of this measure have made explicit the ultimate objective of the anti-reproductive rights movement: to strip all Americans of their constitutional right to make their own decisions about whether and when to have children.
“The scope of the fundamental rights and longstanding court precedents under attack by the opponents of reproductive rights is stunning.
“They’re coming after birth control. They would make access to abortion illegal in all circumstances. They would even threaten the ability of couples with fertility problems to seek medical assistance in starting a family.
“In recent weeks, we have seen hostility toward the health and rights of women and doctors reach a fever pitch, with concerted efforts to choke off access to essential reproductive health care not only in Oklahoma but also Mississippi, Arizona, Michigan, the District of Columbia.
“Regardless of whether these assaults take aim at one particular reproductive health service or all at once, they all must be regarded as serious threats to the constitutional rights of all Americans. And they must be decisively rejected as such.”
The U.S. Supreme Court found in Griswold v. Connecticut a fundamental right to privacy that protects the decision to use contraceptives. Further, it has consistently held in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey that states cannot ban abortion before viability.
The restrictions inherent in so-called “personhood” initiatives are so extreme that no state has ever enacted such a measure. In fact, voters across the country have resoundingly rejected all similarly extreme initiatives that have made it to the ballot. In 2011, Mississippi voters voted down a “personhood” amendment , and in 2008 and 2010, Coloradans twice defeated similar measures.
The Center for Reproductive Rights, the ACLU, and their partners brought the lawsuit against the Oklahoma ballot initiative 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 be 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 of Hardwick Law Office; and Ryan Kiesel of the ACLU-Oklahoma Foundation.