Alaska Supreme Court rules personhood unconstitutional

May 4th, 2013 | Posted by Atlee Breland in Legislation

Yesterday, the Alaska Supreme Court issued a ruling in a lawsuit over a proposed initiative from 2011. Personhood activists had sought to place personhood on the 2011 ballot, but the initiative was rejected by Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on the grounds that Alaska does not permit clearly unconstitutional initiatives. Initiative sponsor Clinton Desjarlais appealed the ruling all the way to the Alaska Supreme Court, which yesterday ruled that the initiative was unconstitutional and cannot qualify for the ballot:

DesJarlais’s initiative would permit abortion only where dictated by “the law of
necessity,” in which case a defendant would still be subject to criminal prosecution.
Because DesJarlais’s initiative would prohibit abortion to an extent that the United States
Supreme Court has deemed unconstitutional, it is “clearly unconstitutional” under
controlling authority.

The logic of the Alaska Supreme Court’s decision was very similar to the 2012 initiative rejection by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. While Mr. Desjarlais could potentially continue the appeal to the US Supreme Court, it is doubtful he would fare better than the Oklahoma case, which the Supreme Court refused to hear in October 2012.

The Court’s ruling means that not only will Desjarlais’ measure not appear on the ballot, but that any similar measures filed in the future would also be denied. It likewise strongly suggests that any attempt by the Alaska Legislature would be struck down on similar grounds of constitutionality.

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