Supreme Court turns down appeal in Okla. 'personhood' case

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a case involving the anti-abortion-rights movement's push to define "personhood" in the law.

By rejecting the appeal, the justices left in place a lower court's decision that found a personhood measure in Oklahoma would violate the Constitution.

Only four of the nine justices have to agree for the court to take a case, so Monday's rejection could be a sign that the court's four conservative justices aren't interested in wading into personhood, a concept that has divided opponents of abortion rights.

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Personhood proposals aim to redefine "life" under state laws and constitutions to say that life begins at the moment an egg is fertilized. Although that would prohibit abortion, it could also restrict women's access to in vitro fertilization and some forms of contraception.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court blocked a personhood amendment from the state's ballot, saying it would be unconstitutional. In the ruling, the Oklahoma justices said states must abide by the Supreme Court's ruling that abortion is legal.

Personhood has gotten a lot of attention, but has fared poorly in the states thus far. Proposals have been rejected from several state ballots, and have failed when they've made it to a vote. Voters in conservative Mississippi rejected a personhood measure last year after then-Gov. Haley Barbour (R) voiced his reservations about the measure's scope.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments and issues orders as planned Monday, even as the rest of the federal government was closed due to Hurricane Sandy.

The justices do not explain their decisions to accept or deny cases, and did not offer an explanation for declining to hear the personhood suit.