OKLAHOMA CITY — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to take up an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that said a proposal to grant “personhood” to human embryos would be an improper ban on abortion.
The proposed constitutional amendment, which was never considered by voters, would have given human embryos the rights and privileges of citizens in Oklahoma and was called “clearly unconstitutional” by the state Supreme Court in an April ruling.
The 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 before it could be placed on the ballot.
“Today’s rejection by the highest court in the nation is yet another resounding message to the opponents of reproductive freedom that such extremist assaults on our fundamental rights will not stand,” Nancy Northrup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights said Monday.
“Pure and simple, these tactics are an affront to our nation’s Constitution and a bald-faced attempt to foreclose women’s access to a full range of reproductive health care,” Northrup said.
Mathew Staver, founder of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, which filed the appeal on behalf of Personhood Oklahoma, expressed disappointment but said supporters of the measure would not give up.
“Certainly we would have hoped the court would review this issue because we think it’s a significant one that grants citizens the right to express their opinion,” Staver said. “We’ll continue to move forward with these initiatives.” He said the group may ask legislators to weigh in.
A personhood bill passed in the state Senate during this year’s legislative session but was not heard by the House.
Personhood Oklahoma co-founder Dan Skerbitz said the group will not give up.
“In Oklahoma, the people were denied their right to petition and their right to vote,” Skerbitz said. “The people of Oklahoma will not rest until our voices are heard, and our women and children are protected from abortion.”
A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Attorney General said that office was not involved in the lawsuit.
Staver acknowledged that his group’s goal is to provide the U.S. Supreme Court with a case that allows it to review the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
“It’s the first step in that direction,” Staver said.