In re Initiative Petition 395, State Question No. 761


Primary Content

This is a pre-election challenge to a blatantly unconstitutional ballot initiative proposed in Oklahoma that would define a fertilized egg as a "person," thereby banning abortion and most forms of contraception, as well as interfering with fertility treatments and care provided to pregnant women.

Filing Date: 3/29/12

State: Oklahoma

Plaintiff(s): Brittany Mays Barber, Larry Burns, D.O., Heather Hall, Eli Reshef, M.D., Martha Skeeters, Ph.D., and Dana Stone, M.D.

Center Attorney(s): Michelle Movahed, Stephanie Toti, and David Brown

Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, ACLU of Oklahoma Foundation, Anne Zachritz, and Martha Hardwick.

Summary: On March 29, 2012, the Center filed a challenge to Oklahoma's Initiative Petition 395, an extreme measure that would violate the federal Constitution and seriously jeopardize the rights, life, and health of all Oklahoma women. The initiative would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to include fertilized eggs within the definition of a "person" so as to completely ban abortion and to interfere with women's right to decide whether and when to conceive by banning most forms of contraception and fertility treatments. The initiative also has potential to impact women's ability to access a wide range of other medical care, including treatment for ectopic pregnancy and care provided to women with a high-risk pregnancy. The Center, on behalf of six Oklahomans, has challenged the measure in the Oklahoma Supreme Court as violating women's federal constitutional rights as well as a state constitutional requirement that all measures have only one subject and a state statutory requirement that measures adequately put voters on notice of their effects. The Oklahoma Supreme Court issued an order on April 30, 2012, stating that the proposed initiative was "clearly unconstitutional" and could not be added to the state ballot in November.