ACLU suit challenges personhood bill

TULSA - A lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of a handful of Oklahoma voters against the personhood ballot initiative.

Senate Bill 1433 passed out of the House Public Health Committee with a 7-4 vote earlier this week.

The bill provides embryos and fetuses "all the rights, privileges and immunities" of other citizens. Supporters say it's modeled after a 1986 Missouri law that the U.S. Supreme Court has said is constitutional.

Pro-choice supporters oppose the measure and say government should not interfere in the lives of its citizens.

The Oklahoma State Medical Association says the bill could affect reproductive medicine and ban certain forms of birth control.

The six voters involved in the suit, including women's health providers and religious leaders, are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Oklahoma and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"By their own admission, the proponents of this initiative aim to strip women and families of their established right to decide whether and when to become pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term," said Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma.

The bill's author, Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, says it isn't intended to outlaw abortions but rather to declare that Oklahomans believe life begins at conception.

"A vote for this measure simply declares that the state of Oklahoma values life and believes every child is a gift and deserving of protection," said state Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Purcell. "That is not a controversial viewpoint."

The suit claims if the personhood bill is passed, it would outlaw many reproductive health services, including abortions, commonly used forms of birth control, in vitro fertilization and treatment for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages.

"It's been nearly four decades since the Supreme Court ruled that women have the right to safe, legal abortion services," said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. "Yet state legislatures continue to attack that right through dangerous, outrageous initiatives such as this one. This is unacceptable. We must respect a woman's capacity to make private, personal decisions about her reproductive health with her doctor and her family."

More information on the suit can be found at www.aclu.org (http://bit.ly/HlFS05).

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