By Kathleen Gilbert

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, December 1, 2009 ( – In the latest in a string of court proceedings against personhood initiatives nationwide, the Alaskan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is backing a lawsuit against state officials for giving voters an opportunity to decide on a ballot initiative that would declare all human beings “persons.”

The suit alleges that the proposed language does not adequately present to voters the possible consequences of its enactment, such as the outlawing of abortion, and thus Lieutenant Governor Craig Campbell should not have approved it.  Plaintiffs, including Vic Fisher, a former Alaska Democratic legislator, argue that the signature-collecting process should be halted immediately.

The proposed ballot measure states: “All human beings, from the beginning of their biological development as human organisms, including the single-cell embryo … shall be recognized as legal persons in the state of Alaska.”

The office of Alaska attorney general Daniel Sullivan in October issued an opinion favoring introduction of the initiative in its current form, saying that whatever impact it may have on existing state law would be left to the interpretation of state courts.  The initiative's backers will begin collecting signatures next month, aiming for a spot on the 2012 ballot.

Alaska Civil Liberties Union executive director Jeffrey Mittman called the initiative “insane,” and argued that the personhood language could have unforeseen consequences such as requiring unborn children to receive Permanent Fund dividend checks.

Christopher Kurka, the initiative's sponsor, countered that his opponents were employing absurd scenarios to muddy the issue.  He pointed out that dividends can only go to citizens, not just persons, and that therefore the persons in question must be born. 

“To me it's clear evidence we're doing the right thing, because they only found out about this a month ago, and they're already suing.  They're afraid it might protect the unborn,” Christopher Kurka, the initiative's sponsor, told Monday.

“It seems the American Civil Liberties Union is not concern with protecting the civil liberties of unborn children,” he added.  “It's tragic.”

Kurka acknowledged that one of the plaintiffs' cited fears was true: should personhood win voter approval, Kurka says he would challenge legislators to change abortion laws to recognize the measure.

The personhood initiatives in both Missouri and Nevada also became the subject of lawsuits by pro-abortion advocates earlier this month.

In 2007, Colorado's Planned Parenthood and ACLU also sued officials in that state for its personhood initiative, the first in the nation at the time.  The initiative nonetheless made it onto Colorado's ballot the following year.

See related coverage:

Alaska Introduces Personhood Initiative 

Planned Parenthood and ACLU Sue to Block Nevada Personhood Initiative 

Planned Parenthood Attempts to Strangle Personhood Ballot in Missouri