Oklahoma State Question 761, would amend the Oklahoma Constitution for Personhood

Posted on March 25, 2012

Tulsa World, March 25, 2012 by Barbara Hoberock

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt determined that the wording on a personhood initiative petition did not comply with state laws. As a result, his office has rewritten it because it did not adequately explain the effects.

If approved by voters, the measure, State Question 761, would amend the Oklahoma Constitution.

It would define a person as any human being from the beginning of biological development to death.

“Biological development of a human being begins at fertilization, which is the fusion of a female egg with a human male sperm to form a new cell,” the reworded measure says.

The measure would give a fertilized egg equal protection and due process rights. It would prohibit abortion, which would be in conflict with the 1973 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade. That case legalized abortion. If the ballot measure passes a state vote, it could face a legal challenge.

“The measure does not prohibit contraceptive methods that prevent the creation of a person as defined by this measure,” the reworded petition says.

The measure would not ban contraception that prevents the creation of a person but would prohibit contraception that ends a pregnancy, the reworded measure said.

“The measure would also protect persons created in a laboratory, which would affect, but not prohibit, medical procedures such as in vitro fertilization,” the reworded petition says. “For example, persons created in a laboratory as part of the medical procedure would not be deliberately destroyed.”

The signatures Personhood Oklahoma gathered under the old version of the ballot initiative are still good, said Diane Clay, a spokeswoman for Pruitt.

Supporters hope to collect more than the required 155,216 signatures to get the issue on the November ballot.

“We are quite pleased with the AG rendering of the ballot title,” said Dan Skerbitz, Personhood Oklahoma director. “We think it accurately reflects both the actual wording of the amendment and its effects.”

He said he hopes to submit the required signatures by May 28.

The organization has more than 13,000 people gathering signatures and is working with more than 400 churches, Skerbitz said.

“Most people don’t have a second thought about supporting something that is pro-life,” Skerbitz said.

“I suppose at the point that it did become a ballot question there would be organized opposition to it,” said Ryan Kiesel, American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma executive director. “Right now, it is a coalition of organizations with the common interest in protecting reproductive health in Oklahoma.”

He called the measure “the most extreme and dangerous attack” on health care decisions for Oklahoma women.

“I think extreme to the point that pro-life and pro-choice Oklahomans will agree this goes too far,” Kiesel said.

Posted in: Oklahoma