OK's Personhood Bill Next Roe Challenge?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 10, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Oklahoma legislators may intentionally be tempting the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Reuters. Oklahoma Senate Bill 1433, also known as Oklahoma's Personhood Bill, is gaining traction, and if passed, would give embryos, from conception, the same rights as already born persons.

Some believe the bill would restrict contraception, in vitro fertilization and abortion. But others claim it will do no such thing, and is merely a political statement that, "in Oklahoma, we value life."

Oklahoma's Personhood Bill is not new. Mississippi tried to pass a similar law during the last election, but it failed to garner enough votes. Missouri passed a similar law in 1986, reports Reuters, and it still stands today.

However, Oklahoma's law differs from Missouri's law in what some see as a significant way. Missouri specifically subjected its personhood bill "to the Constitution of the United States, and decisional interpretations thereof by the United States Supreme Court." Oklahoma's law has no such provision.

Some suggest this oversight would put the law in direct conflict with Roe v. Wade, reports Reuters. If true, pro-choice advocates would have little choice but to challenge the law all the way up to the Supreme Court. Pro-life advocates would arguably welcome this challenge, as the Court's latest abortion decision implies that it is taking a more restrictive approach towards reproductive rights.

The problem with this entire scenario is that it misses an essential point. As per the Supremacy Clause, Oklahoma's Personhood Bill is implicitly subject to the U.S. Constitution and the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Laws rarely, if ever, specifically spell this out.

So unless Oklahoma's Personhood Bill is used to limit a woman's reproductive rights or access to abortion, it's doubtful that it directly conflicts with Roe v. Wade. Abortion advocates are therefore unlikely to automatically challenge the law.

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