Legal Challenge of Alaska Personhood Initiative Filed

A lawsuit was filed last week that challenges a so-called “personhood initiative” petition in Alaska. The suit charges that the measure’s language is too broad and could have significant unintended legal consequences if enacted. It argues that the ballot measure should not have been certified by state Lieutenant Governor Craig Campbell and seeks to halt the collection of signatures to place the measure on the ballot, according to the Anchorage Daily News. The suit is supported by the ACLU of Alaska and plaintiffs include Vic Fischer, who is a former Alaska state legislator and delegate to the state constitutional convention.

The proposed language (see PDF) of the initiative states that “all human beings, from the beginning of their biological development as human organisms, including the single-cell embryo, regardless of age, health, level of functioning, condition of dependency or method of reproduction, shall be recognized as legal persons in the state of Alaska.” The Associated Press reported that state Attorney General Dan Sullivan suggested that the petition to be circulated in support of the proposed initiative include a disclaimer stating that the measure “would not amend or repeal existing state law regulating abortion, but could impact some areas of the law, including criminal law, to extend rights and protections prior to birth.”

Abortion opponents have pushed these so-called “personhood initiatives” in several states. These measures declare that a fertilized egg is a “person” who enjoys “inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of the law.” They would threaten not only abortion itself, but IUDs, emergency contraception, in vitro fertilization clinics, and stem cell research. In the 2008 elections, Colorado’s Amendment 48 (see PDF), failed by 73 to 27 percent. In addition to failing in Montana, petition drives for similar initiatives ultimately failed in Georgia, Oregon, and Mississippi for the 2008 elections.

Currently, petition drives for so-called “personhood initiatives” are underway in Nevada, Colorado, Michigan, Florida, and Montana. The Alaska initiative’s supporters must gather 32,734 valid signatures in order for it to be certified for the state’s ballot.


Anchorage Daily News 11/28/09; Alaska Personhood Ballot Petition; Associated Press 11/28/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 11/23/09

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