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Eggs Are People. Really?

Illustration of two women back to back embracing their pregnant bodies.
Illustration of two women back to back embracing their pregnant bodies.
Talcott Camp,
ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project
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March 29, 2012

So now a ballot initiative can decide that eggs are people — really?

Yup, if a group called Personhood USA gets its way. They have filed a ballot initiative with the Oklahoma secretary of state that would put a constitutional amendment before the Oklahoma voters in November. The amendment would redefine a “person” to exist from the moment of “fusion of a female egg with a human male sperm to form a new cell.” A single cell, really?

As Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt noted, this “prohibits abortion”; “contraception methods that result in termination of a ‘person'” (otherwise known as birth control pills); and medical treatments that involve disposing of fertilized eggs, as is routine in in vitro fertilization. That’s the Oklahoma AG’s version, and he is no friend of reproductive liberty. So let me give you my version.

This proposal would ban a broad range of critical health services women need across the span of their reproductive years. It would force each pregnant woman in Oklahoma to continue the pregnancy, even in cases of ectopic pregnancy, inevitable miscarriage and other conditions that endanger her health or even her life; cases of fetal anomaly so severe that she has no hope of giving birth to a baby who would survive; and cases in which she became pregnant as a result of rape or incest. The new amendment would also ban birth control pills and effectively end IVF.

But before we single out Oklahoma, let’s remember that this group and others have put nearly identical measures on the ballot in Mississippi and Colorado, where both were rejected by voters by significant margins. And they’re attempting to do the same in Arkansas, Colorado (again), Kansas, Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Nevada.

It is one thing for people to conduct their lives according to a code under which birth control pills are immoral or even murderous. We are all entitled to live by our own beliefs, and the ACLU has stood again and again against forced contraception and forced sterilization.

But it is quite another thing for a state to impose such a regime on all women and men within its borders, as this new ballot measure attempts to do in Oklahoma.

The government has no business interfering in a woman’s and her family’s personal and private decision-making, and that is why the ACLU and the ACLU of Oklahoma, along with the Center for Reproductive Rights, today filed a challenge to this ballot initiative in Oklahoma Supreme Court.

And why does this matter so much? Because a woman is a person. Really.

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