Oklahoma ‘Personhood’ Bill Poses Challenge to Roe
The next major challenge to the constitutional right to abortion in the United States could be a strategically-worded anti-abortion bill gaining momentum in the Oklahoma legislature.
Oklahoma Senate Bill 1433, or the Personhood Act, grants embryos full rights as people from the moment of fertilization. It cleared the Oklahoma Senate in February and is expected to pass in the GOP-controlled House in the coming weeks. The state’s Republican governor, Mary Fallin, is an abortion opponent, though she has declined to state a position on the measure.
The legislation is one of a handful of similar initiatives around the country seeking to establish legal rights for embryos, including last fall’s failed attempt in Mississippi to enact a personhood amendment to the state constitution.
Like its sister personhood measures, SB 1433 has been controversial within the anti-abortion camp. The initiatives are designed to provoke legal challenges from abortion-rights supporters, with the ultimate goal of giving the U.S. Supreme Court a vehicle to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion. The personhood approach has the backing of such abortion opponents as Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, but has been criticized by some anti-abortion leaders, who fear the strategy could backfire.