OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Supporters of granting personhood rights to human embryos asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to reverse a ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court that stopped the proposed constitutional amendment.
Personhood USA asked the nation’s highest court to allow Oklahoma citizens to circulate and collect signatures to support a ballot measure that would place the issue before voters, alleging “it was error for the Oklahoma Supreme Court to assume the power to strike a proposed law before it had been enacted.”
The state Supreme Court ruled that the ballot question, if approved, would unconstitutionally ban abortion. The group’s 34-page petition said that decision was contrary to rulings in similar cases by the U.S. Supreme Court that determined courts should not invalidate state statutes “based upon a worst-case analysis that may never occur.”
“The Oklahoma Supreme Court violated these basic rules of judicial review, frustrating the intent and infringing the right of the sovereign people of Oklahoma,” the petition says.
Keith Mason, founder of Personhood USA, a national anti-abortion advocacy group, said the state Supreme Court’s decision effectively denied Oklahomans the opportunity to debate and vote on the proposed amendment.
“This is about equal access to the democratic process,” Mason said. “No citizen can be blocked from expressing their views on such a critical issue as life.”
The personhood ballot measure, Initiative Petition 395, would grant human embryos the rights and privileges of citizens in Oklahoma. It is similar to a measure filed in the Oklahoma Legislature that lawmakers didn’t approve this year.
Supporters have said their goal is to set up a legal challenge to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 that gave women a legal right to abortion. Similar personhood measures have been proposed in other states.
The Oklahoma ballot measure was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of several Oklahoma doctors and residents who opposed it. Opponents claimed it would effectively ban abortions without exception and interfere with a woman’s right to use certain forms of contraception and medical procedures, such as in vitro fertilization.
In a unanimous ruling on April 30, the state Supreme Court sided with opponents and said to define a fertilized human egg as a person “is clearly unconstitutional.”
Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, called Personhood USA’s appeal an attack on the reproductive rights of women.
“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,” Northrup said in a statement on the organization’s website.
“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,” Northrup said.
“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,” she said.