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Oklahoma "Personhood" Amendment (2012)

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The Oklahoma "Personhood" Amendment did not make the November 2012 ballot in the state of Oklahoma as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.

The measure would have defined the term "person" in the Oklahoma Constitution beginning at the start of biological development, and would criminalize abortion. According to reports, the measure was authored by State Rep. Mike Reynolds. In addition, the proposal would specify that the criminalization of abortion would not apply to miscarriages or to circumstances that places the life of the mother in danger.[1]

Another proposal was launched, this time via citizen initiative, by Personhood Oklahoma.

According to reports, the petition to obtain signatures started during the week of March 1, 2012, when supporters filed petition text with the Oklahoma Secretary of State's office. Organizers of the ballot initiative effort stated that the proposal would have more impact than the legislation being considered in state legislative session.[2]

Text of measure

Constitutional changes

Citizen initiative

Article 2, Section 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution would be amended to read as follows, if the citizen initiative proposal were to be enacted by citizens:[2]

“A ‘person’ as referred to in Article 2, section 2 of this constitution shall be defined as any human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being to natural death. The inherent rights of such person shall not be denied without due process of law and no person as defined herein shall be denied equal protection under the law due to age, place of resident or medical condition.”

Support

  • On March 26, 2012, more than 100 people marched to the state capitol in rallying support of the citizen initiative. Among those who marched included the leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Archbishop Paul Coakley. Supporter D.W. Hearn of Oklahoma City stated at the rally: “I think we have to respect the human dignity of unborn children. We're coming together to show solidarity."[3]

Opposition

The following is information obtained from the opposing side of the measure:

  • According to Shayna Daitch, the national committeewoman for the Young Democrats of Oklahoma, stated: "It really disturbs me that they care more about fetuses and embryos than women currently living in the state of Oklahoma."[4]
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Lawsuits

See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

In re Initiative Petition No. 395, State Question No. 761

On March 29, 2012, a lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights, on behalf of multiple Oklahoma doctors and residents, in an attempt to block signature collection for the November 2012 ballot. Those who filed the lawsuit claimed that the ballot initiative is unconstitutional. The lawsuit was heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.[5]

According to Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU's Oklahoma chapter: "Let's save the taxpayers of Oklahoma the time and expense of collecting and verifying signatures, placing this question on the ballot and sending something that we know is unconstitutional to a vote of the people."[5]

On the other side of the argument, Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, commented: "The opponents of personhood will stop at nothing to deny the people of Oklahoma their First Amendment right to petition the government on behalf of the preborn and ultimately recognize the most basic and fundamental human rights of the smallest and most defenseless people group."[5]

On April 30, the Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the amendment. Although the court did not find the proposed amendement in direct violation of Oklahoma Constitution, the state constitution forbids amendments that conflict with the U.S. Constitution. The court held that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey governed in the case.[6][7]

  • The order in the case can be found here.

Path to the ballot

Legislative referral

The Oklahoma State Legislature can approve a proposed amendment by a majority vote. However, if the state legislature wants the proposed amendment to go on a special election ballot, it has to approve the amendment by a 2/3rds vote.

On March 6, 2012, the measure cleared a hurdle when it was approved by the Oklahoma State Senate with a vote of 34 to 8. The measure must be approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives in order to make the ballot.[8]

Citizen initiative

Supporters had until May 30, 2012 to gather and submit at least 155,215 to the Oklahoma Secretary of State's office in order to qualify for the November 6, 2012 general election ballot.[2]

See also

References


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