On March 1st, 2012, Oklahoma’s pro-life advocates have launched a citizen-led initiative to amend the state constitution and recognize the personhood rights of every man, woman, and child, born and preborn. On April 30th, 2012, this initiative was struck down by the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. In spite of these recent events, we remain steadfast in our support of the personhood strategy, and will continue to work to make sure that the personhood of every child, born or preborn, is recognized and protected by the law.
On this page, we describe the personhood initiative, explain why we endorse it, and provide answers to various criticisms of the initiative.
What is the Personhood Initiative?
The Oklahoma Personhood Amendment Initiative seeks to place a measure on the November 2012 ballot that would add an amendment to the Oklahoma state constitution. This amendment would define the term “person,” as used to ensure the inherent right to life in the Oklahoma Constitution, to include every human being from the beginning of life, at conception, to natural death.
Similar to the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution, Oklahoma’s new state constitutional personhood amendment will guarantee that the rights of persons are not “denied without due process of law” or “equal protection under the law due to age, place of residence, or medical condition.” The text of the ballot initiative is as follows:
This measure adds a new section of the Oklahoma Constitution. The section defines a “person” for purposes of Article 2, Section 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which provides all persons with the inherent right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The measure defines “person” as any human being from the beginning of biological development to natural death. Biological development of a human being begins at fertilization, which is the fusion of a female egg with a human male sperm to form a new cell. The measure vests state constitutional inherent rights, including rights to equal protection regardless of age, place of residence or medical condition and due process rights to “persons” as defined by this measure. The measure thus generally prohibits abortion.
The measure does not prohibit contraceptive methods that prevent the creation of a “person” as defined by this measure. The measure would prohibit contraception methods that result in termination of a “person.”
The measure would also protect “persons” created in a laboratory, which would affect, but not prohibit, medical procedures such as in vitro fertilization. For example, “persons” created in a laboratory as part of the medical procedure could not be deliberately destroyed.
Sponsors of the Oklahoma Personhood Amendment include Daniel Skerbitz, Director of Personhood Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Representative Mike Reynolds, and T. Russell Hunter, Director of the Abolitionist Society of Oklahoma. The ballot measure was filed on March 1st, and 155,000 petition signatures must be collected by May 28th in order to get the measure on the November ballot.
What is our Position Concerning the Initiative?
Not long ago in western culture, abolitionists engaged in a similar discussion to the one we now face, on a different topic of equal importance. The abolitionists of slavery lived in a culture that refused to recognize all humans as truly equal under God and endowed by their creator with basic rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The debate confronting us as a nation in the 19th century was whether human beings of African descent were 100% persons. Similarly, the modern debate concerns whether preborn human beings are 100% persons. The advocates of slavery claimed a “right to their own property,” while advocates of abortion now claim a “right to their own bodies.” The problem in both situations is simple: people from Africa aren’t property, and preborn children aren’t body parts.
In March 1857, the Dred Scott decision of the U.S. Supreme Court approved the “right” to own human beings as property, thereby depriving an entire group of Americans of their rights. Legality did not equal moral right. In January 1973, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision approved the “right” to destroy Americans simply because they lived inside the wombs of their mothers. Today again, legality does not equal moral right. The abolitionists of slavery knew that African-Americans were men and brothers, women and sisters, sons and daughters, and they kept fighting for them. We emphatically believe the same of the preborn.
Those protecting the right to own slaves put up many false arguments concerning why slavery could not be ended, from economic problems to crime increase—all misinformation designed to protect the evil of slavery. In the same way there are many abortion advocates who employ rhetorical devices, emotional appeals, gross exaggerations, and/or outright lies in an effort to preserve the legality of this modern and monstrous evil. Early abolitionists responded clearly and resolutely to arguments for slavery; we will respond in the same way to arguments for abortion. Like the abolitionists of old, we oppose arguments that arbitrarily decide who is and is not a person.
The Abolitionist Society of Oklahoma is theologically conservative and unashamedly evangelical. We are comprised of teenagers, college students, single adults, married adults, senior citizens, adoptive children, adoptive parents, post-abortive women, and abortion survivors. We are equal parts men and women. We sponsor this amendment because we believe that robbing people of their rights as persons in order to dehumanize and destroy them is not a new tactic. We take our cue from all who have stood up for the defenseless in the past. They were called “fanatics”, “zealots”, and “fundamentalists” and were told to keep their moral and religious beliefs to themselves. Their ideologies were labeled dangerous and unmanageable, and they were told that they would never have success. Thank God that they pressed on. And thank God that they were successful.
The Personhood Initiative should go to a vote of the people. But it must be seen rightly. This is not about taking away rights. It is about restoring the right of every person to live.
Responses to Criticisms of the Initiative
See the following articles that we have written, in response to criticisms of the Personhood Initiative, and the related (though distinct) Personhood Act.1
- Correcting False Views of the Oklahoma Personhood Act
- Addressing Concerns About the Personhood Act
- Do Gametes Possess a Right to Life?
- Response to “Personhood” by Johnny Hoax and Uncle Bungus
- Response to the Feb. 28th Anti-Personhood Rally
Read the testimony of Josiah, a member of our society who personally survived an abortion attempt.
Also, see our Abolitionist FAQ, which provides responses to many pro-choice arguments that we have encountered.
- The responses to a number of criticisms of the Personhood Act are relevant to some criticisms the Personhood Amendment as well. More articles will be posted here as more public criticisms of the Personhood Initiative are raised. [↩]