Supreme Court won’t take up Okla. ‘per­son­hood’ is­sue

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY CH­ERYL WETZSTEIN

The Supreme Court on Oct. 29 de­clined to take up a law­suit over an Ok­la­homa “per­son­hood” amend­ment that sought to grant state con­sti­tu­tional pro­tec­tions to hu­man em­bryos start­ing at con­cep­tion, but pro-life ad­vo­cates say the is­sue is far from over.

“We have 40,000 vol­un­teers in Ok­la­homa who are ready to try again,” said Jen­nifer Ma­son, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor of Per­son­hood USA.

Op­po­nents, how­ever, said the high court’s de­ci­sion not to con­sider Per­son­hood Ok­la­homa v. Bar­ber was just the lat­est dis­missal of mea­sures seek­ing to give rights and pro­tec­tions to em­bryos and fe­tuses.

“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,” said Nancy Northup, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Cen­ter for Re­pro­duc­tive Rights (CRR), which was one of sev­eral groups that suc­cess­fully blocked a pe­ti­tion drive for the per­son­hood amend­ment in court ear­lier this year.

In April, the Ok­la­homa Supreme Court ruled unan­i­mously that the pro­posed per­son­hood amend­ment was “clearly un­con­sti­tu­tional” un­der both state and U.S. con­sti­tu­tions.

Ms. Northrup ap­plauded that de­ci­sion, which now pre­vails be­cause of the an­nounce­ment by the Supreme Court. “Pure and sim­ple, these [per­son­hood] 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,” she said.

Mathew D. Staver, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Lib­erty Coun­sel, which joined Per­son­hood Ok­la­homa in seek­ing Supreme Court re­view in Per­son­hood Ok­la­homa v. Bar­ber, said that the high court’s de­ci­sion had no “prece­den­tial” bear­ing on the per­son­hood is­sue, per se.

In­stead, it meant the high court de­cided not to con­sider “whether a state court can in­ter­fere with the rights of cit­i­zens to gather sig­na­tures to amend their con­sti­tu­tions,” he said.

“On the is­sue, the Ok­la­homa Supreme Court de­ci­sion is wrong. But this is by no means the end of the road in Ok­la­homa,” Mr. Staver added.

Per­son­hood amend­ments have failed ev­ery time at the bal­lot box. But more cam­paigns are planned for the 2014 elec­tion, said Mrs. Ma­son. “If abor­tion is to be abol­ished, it will be up to the peo­ple to do that,” she said, not­ing that nei­ther Pres­i­dent Obama nor Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Rom­ney have sig­naled sup­port for per­son­hood amend­ments.

Per­son­hood amend­ments typ­i­cally say that hu­man rights be­gin at con­cep­tion and continue to nat­u­ral death. Such mea­sures have im­pli­ca­tions for abor­tion, em­bryo re­search, as­sisted sui­cide and other life-and­death is­sues.

Ok­la­homa’s pro­posed amend­ment would have ex­panded “the le­gal def­i­ni­tion of hu­man­ity or ‘per­son­hood’ to in­clude ev­ery hu­man be­ing, re­gard­less of place of res­i­dence, race, gen­der, age, dis­abil­ity, health, level of func­tion, con­di­tion of de­pen­dency, or method of re­pro­duc­tion, from the be­gin­ning of bi­o­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment to the end of nat­u­ral life.” If it had been adopted, “in­ten­tional killing” of any such “per­son” would have be­come il­le­gal with­out due process of law.

Sep­a­rately, the Supreme Court on Mon­day said it has sched­uled sev­eral ho­mo­sex­ual-mar­riage cases for its con­fer­ence on Nov. 20. De­ci­sions could be an­nounced Nov. 26.

If the high court de­clines to hear Hollingsworth v. Perry, ho­mo­sex­ual mar­riage will re­sume in Cal­i­for­nia.

The other cases will de­ter­mine the fate of the 1996 De­fense of Mar­riage Act (DOMA), which main­tains that in fed­eral law mar­riage means the union of one man and one woman. Ho­mo­sex­ual plain­tiffs have sued to over­turn DOMA, say­ing it il­le­gally de­nies them spousal and mar­i­tal ben­e­fits.

The DOMA cases to be dis­cussed Nov. 20 are Wind­sor v. United States; Golin­ski v. Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment; Ped­er­sen v. Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment; and the con­sol­i­dated case, Gill v. Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment and Com­mon­wealth of Mas­sachusetts v. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices.

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