Okla. court halts 'personhood' rights for embryos

Associated Press Modified: April 30, 2012 at 5:31 pm •  Published: April 30, 2012
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The backers of the signature drive 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.

"We're going to do everything we can to try to save innocent children," state Rep. Mike Reynolds, a Republican from Oklahoma City who is one of the petition organizers, said Monday.

Efforts to pass a personhood bill failed in the Legislature this year. A measure granting fertilized human eggs the rights and privileges of Oklahoma residents that had been approved by the Senate died in the House on Thursday. House Speaker Kris Steele, a Republican from Shawnee, had said that a majority of the GOP caucus had privately voted against hearing the bill.

Opponents argued that the proposed amendment "would confer rights on a fertilized egg that trump the rights of each woman to determine whether and when to conceive and whether to carry a pregnancy to term."

Court documents filed by opponents noted the state Supreme Court rejected an attempt to use the initiative petition process to ban abortion in 1992, ruling that the process could not be used to curtail rights secured to women by the U.S. Constitution.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the Oklahoma Constitution specifically prohibits 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," Northrup said.

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU's Oklahoma chapter and a former Democratic lawmaker, said the court's decision Monday supports the notion that a woman and her family, "and not the government," should be making decisions on reproductive health care.