Oklahoma ‘personhood’ law to grant embryos rights as people fails

Posted on April 19, 2012


Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY – A proposed ‘personhood’law

in Oklahoma that would grant embryos full rights as people

from the moment of conception failed in the state’s legislature
without ever coming to a vote in the House of Representatives, a
state lawmaker said on Thursday.

The Republican-controlled House had been expected to approve
the Personhood Act, which passed the state Senate in February,
and Republican Governor Mary Fallin had been expected to sign
it.

But Republican lawmaker Sally Kern said the bill, which had
been amended nearly two dozen times in committee, failed without
ever coming to a full vote.

While the personhood bill did not expressly prohibit
abortion, abortion-rights advocates have said there was nothing
to stop hospital administrators or local law enforcement
agencies from restricting or criminalizing abortions under such
a law.

If an embryo has full legal rights, abortion would represent
murder. The bill does not carve out exceptions for rape or
incest.

Missouri is the only state so far with such a “personhood”
law on its books establishing legal rights for embryos, though
similar initiatives have been proposed in a handful of states.

These include last fall’s failed attempt in Mississippi to
enact a personhood amendment to the state constitution and a
similar proposal in Virginia that was put on hold by the
legislature until next year.

But Oklahoma’s bill sought to go farther than Missouri’s in
challenging the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v.
Wade that legalized abortion by not including language
acknowledging that it defers to the court and Constitution.

Like other personhood measures, the Oklahoma bill has been
controversial within the anti-abortion camp. The initiatives
were designed to provoke legal challenges from abortion-rights
supporters, with the ultimate goal of giving the Supreme Court a
vehicle to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to Keith Mason, a
leader of the movement.

(Reporting By Steve Olafson; Writing by Cynthia Johnston;
Editing by Paul Thomasch)

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Posted in: Oklahoma