The North Dakota House of Representatives has passed the first personhood amendment in the United States, 57-35. Read more
In the News
MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – Voters in Florida may see a preview in Mississippi of an abortion fight that could be coming to the Sunshine State next year.
Mississippi voters are about to decide on a highly controversial state constitutional amendment that would redefine personhood as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.”
The bill is the latest move from state legislatures seeking to circumvent the Roe vs. Wade decision and effectively end the constitutionally protected right to abortion.
But, the Mississippi bill takes it a step further.
The bill would make the morning-after pill, often given to rape victims, illegal. In addition, any birth control that could destroy fertilized eggs would be banned.
Plus, in vitro fertilization would be hampered because it would become illegal to dispose of unwanted fertilized eggs.
The group behind the amendment, Personhood USA, is planning to push for a similar measure in Florida, Montana, and Ohio in the next year.
A push to amend the Ohio Constitution to declare that life begins when a human egg is fertilized is being spearheaded locally.
Doctor Patrick Johnston of Dresden is a spokesperson for the group Personhood Ohio. The group is currently working to reword their proposed summary after Attorney General Mike Dewine rejected it.
“In the wording of our amendment we’ll make it plain this will not affect contraception, that acts by preventing conception, this will not affect in vitro fertilization as long as they don’t intentionally destroy human embryos, and so it strengthens our amendment,” said Johnston.
To resubmit their proposal the group must collect another 1,000 valid signatures from Ohio Voters. The group’s wording must then be approved before it can collect the 385,000 signatures needed for the amendment to appear on the 2012 Ballots.
“We need to help children that are unwanted in homes,” said Johnston. “Even unwanted children have the right to life and that right begins when their life begins. Scientifically the evidence is clear, life begins at conception.”
Johnston said the mission of Personhood Ohio is to protect every unborn person in the state.
By Gary Pettus, The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger
With Mississippians poised to vote on the Personhood Amendment next week, the war of competing rallies for and against the measure is escalating.* Dr. Shani Meck, a Flowood, Miss., obstetrician, announces her support for the “personhood” amendment during a news conference in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, with like-minded doctors and nurses. By Rogelio V. Solis, AP Dr. Shani Meck, a Flowood, Miss., obstetrician, announces her support for the “personhood” amendment during a news conference in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, with like-minded doctors and nurses.
By Rogelio V. Solis, AP
Dr. Shani Meck, a Flowood, Miss., obstetrician, announces her support for the “personhood” amendment during a news conference in Jackson, Miss., Thursday, with like-minded doctors and nurses.
More than a dozen religious leaders spoke out against it Thursday at the state Capitol in Jackson, while at least 20 medical professionals rallied in favor of it about a block away at the headquarters of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
On Tuesday, Mississippians will vote on Initiative 26, which affirms that all fertilized eggs are people.
Meanwhile, Gov. Haley Barbour, answering questions at a Republican fundraiser Thursday night, said despite his misgivings about the initiative’s wording, he voted for it in an absentee ballot. He said he would not be in his hometown Tuesday to vote at the polls.
“I struggled with it,” Barbour said Thursday.
“I had some concerns about it, have some concerns about it,” Barbour said. “But I think all in all, I know I believe life begins at conception.”
He had told reporters Wednesday that he had concerns about how it might affect in vitro fertilization and ectopic pregnancies. His comments angered social conservatives.
Professing their lack of faith in the amendment, clerics Thursday said that some supporters of the proposal were questioning the spirituality of believers who oppose it.
“I am not excited about an amendment that puts forth a litmus test on our faith,” said the Rev. Christopher Powell, rector of St. James Episcopal Church in Jackson.
“Or one that poses the discussion, ‘Who loves God more? Who loves Mississippi more?’ It divides us; it does not unite us.”
Clergy members also cited “unintended consequences” of the amendment and fears it would limit access to in vitro fertilization and certain contraceptives, including birth control pills; imperil physicians with liability issues; endanger the lives of pregnant women; and other concerns.
“God has sanctified not only fetal life, but all life,” said Rabbi Debra Kassoff, leader of the Hebrew Union Congregation in Greenville, who read aloud a letter opposing the initiative signed by 42 “spiritual leaders of all faiths.”
The Rev. Carol Borne Spencer, who chairs the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference, read a letter of opposition from Bishop Duncan Gray III of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, stating the amendment would lead to “legal nightmares.”
The Rev. Lisa Garvin, a United Methodist minister, offered a statement from Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church, who wrote in part that, while many United Methodists will vote for the initiative, she does not support it, believing it to “exclude tragic conflicts in some life situations.”
The Rev. Jeremy Tobin of Raymond presented a statement from Bishop Joseph Latino of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson. The diocese is not taking a position on the amendment, while “individual Catholics, having formed their consciences, may vote as they so choose,” the statement said.
Ward and Latino were both away on church business, their representatives said.
At the physicians’ assembly, Dr. Freda Bush, a Jackson obstetrician-gynecologist, said, the amendment’s passage would establish “a culture of life.”
Birth control pills would not be banned, but any contraceptive that ended a pregnancy “will not be permitted,” Bush said.
As for victims of rape or incest, she said: “We should provide support for the woman and provide support for the baby.”
She said what are called “legal, safe abortions” also pose health risks for the mother.
Of concerns over physician legal liability, Dr. Beverly McMillan, president of Pro-Life Mississippi, said supporting the initiative is worth “risking the scorn of colleagues who are tempted to replace ethics with a calculation of possible consequences.”
Asked to respond to concerns the amendment’s definition of personhood is “vague” and could lead to the “legal nightmares,” Jackson pediatrician Dr. Catherine Phillippi said, “No one knows exactly what will happen.
“This (amendment) will establish a principle on which those decisions can be made.”
She likened the wording to that of the Second Amendment, which established the right to bear arms.
“Does that mean a felon has the right to bear arms?” she asked. “Like the Second Amendment, this had to start somewhere.”
Contributing: The Associated Press contributed to this report.
A rebel anti-abortion movement is hoping for its first electoral victory Tuesday, when Mississippi voters will decide whether to designate a fertilized egg as a person and potentially label its destruction as murder.
By Sandhya Somashekhar
The Washington Post
A rebel anti-abortion movement gaining momentum nationwide is hoping for its first electoral victory Tuesday, when Mississippi voters will decide whether to designate a fertilized egg as a person and potentially label its destruction an act of murder.
If approved, the nation’s first “personhood” amendment could criminalize abortion and limit in-vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control. It also would give a jolt of energy to a national movement that views mainstream anti-abortion activists as timid.
“They’ve just taken an incremental approach,” said Les Riley, founder of Personhood Mississippi and a self-described tractor salesman and father of 10 who initiated the state’s effort. “We’re just going to the heart of the matter, which is: Is this a person or not? God says it is, and science has confirmed it.”
“Abortion” doesn’t appear in the ballot initiative. Instead, voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to redefine “person” to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof.” That change would cut off access to abortion by equating it with homicide, making no exception for rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in danger.
Activists on both sides agree the measure will likely pass and spark years of litigation that may stall or prevent its implementation.
“Life-at-conception” ballot initiatives in other parts of the country, including Colorado last year, have failed amid concerns about their far-reaching, and in some cases unforeseeable, implications.
But proponents of the amendment say they are more confident of victory in Mississippi, a Bible Belt state where anti-abortion sentiment runs high and the laws governing the procedure are so strict that just one abortion clinic exists.
Opponents of the measure, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have eroded support for it by casting it more broadly as an infringement on women’s health and an example of government overreach.
Like backers of the initiative, dubbed “MS 26,” they have turned out at college football games to distribute literature and spend weekday evenings working phone banks.
“A lot of people think this is just about abortion, but it’s not about abortion,” said Valencia Robinson, an abortion-rights and AIDS activist in Jackson, who spent Friday knocking on doors. “It’s bad for women’s health, it’s bad for our economy, and my strongest point is, it’s just government intrusion in our personal lives.”
The measure has broad support that stretches across party lines, with the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates voicing support for it. The Democrat, Johnny DuPree, however, has expressed concern about how it would affect birth control and in-vitro fertilization.
For years, the strategy favored by conservative activists nationally has been to gradually decrease access to abortion by cutting government funding and imposing restrictions, such as requiring women to view ultrasound images before the procedure.
The aim has been to reduce abortions while awaiting a mix of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court that would be inclined to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion.
Indeed, states have passed 84 laws restricting abortion access in 2011, the most of any year, Guttmacher Institute data show. Only four states had higher teen-pregnancy rates than Mississippi in 2005, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the institute.
An energized group of activists has grown impatient with the go-slow approach. These activists oppose abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Some also oppose making exceptions to save the life of the mother, saying that both lives are equal and doctors do not have the right to save one over the other.
Personhood efforts are under way in more than a dozen states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Ohio. The growing movement views its approach as an answer to the Roe decision, which concluded that under the 14th Amendment, “person” does not apply to the unborn. “If this suggestion of personhood is established,” Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in the opinion, the abortion-rights advocate’s case “collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.”
Rebecca Kiessling, spokeswoman for Personhood USA, said: “I see that as a directive from the court that says, ‘Look, if you want to protect unborn children, you’d better recognize them as persons in the full legal sense.’ “ Kiessling, an attorney, is the product of rape; her mother tried twice to obtain back-alley abortions before giving her daughter up for adoption. She has become a sought-after speaker since writing a pamphlet, “Conceived in Rape.”
Many legal experts say the activists are misinterpreting Blackmun’s language, and the Mississippi measure likely would not stand up in court. If upheld, it could trigger a variety of difficult questions, including whether a woman with cancer would be prevented from receiving chemotherapy if it could kill her fetus.
A statement from the Mississippi Medical Association said the measure’s reach would go beyond abortion access. Unintended consequences, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says, may include criminal prosecution of women who miscarry or use contraception and of doctors who administer lifesaving treatment to women with abnormal pregnancies or disease.
Some experts also say the legal approach could backfire, forcing the courts into making a decision unfavorable to anti-abortion activists. That concern has led to skepticism from more established anti-abortion groups, including the Eagle Forum, which opposed Colorado’s personhood initiative last year, warning that “its vague language would enable more mischief by judges.”
Material from Bloomberg News is included in this report.
A chorus of “amens” filled the statehouse in Jackson, Mississippi, on Halloween night. About 75 people were gathered for a briefing by backers of a ballot initiative that would make the state the first in the U.S. to ban abortion by declaring that life begins at conception.
“Fighting for preservation of the unborn in the state of Mississippi — that’s a cause worth our strongest efforts and our most committed prayers,” Brad Prewitt told the crowd. The 42-year-old lawyer heads Yes on 26, a political-action committee whose television ads, signs and fliers argue that a vote against the proposition is a vote for abortion.
The word “abortion” doesn’t appear on the Nov. 8 ballot. Instead, voters will decide whether to amend the state constitution to redefine the term “person” to include “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the equivalent thereof.” That change would cut off access to abortion by equating it with murder, making no exception for rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in danger.
Activists on both sides agree the amendment will likely pass and spark years of litigation that may stall or prevent its implementation. Mason and other backers say they hope it will lead the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit — and reverse — its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion. Some anti- abortion advocates, such as Jackson Catholic Bishop Joseph Latino, expressed concern the Mississippi law may backfire, leading to judicial reaffirmation of abortion rights.
Medical groups say the measure may criminalize contraception and miscarriages while limiting access to treatments such as in-vitro fertilization.
Triumph in Mississippi will drive other states to follow its lead and spur a push for federal legislative action, proponents say. Previous so-called personhood attempts in Congress have foundered since the 1970s.
“Passing these laws in the states and building that base is the very thing that will give credibility and traction to the federal efforts,” said Keith Mason, president of Colorado-based Personhood USA, an umbrella group that provides assistance to state affiliates nationwide. “We’re essentially building political capital. Pass or fail on the ballot, we are churning up, literally, a movement.”
Mississippi isn’t alone. Petitions to put personhood amendments on 2012 ballots have been filed in Ohio, Nevada and California, Mason said, while signature-gathering is under way in Montana, Florida and Oregon. Organizers hope to soon begin petitioning in Colorado, Arkansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Nebraska, he said. Legislation has been filed in Alabama and awaits co-sponsorship in Wisconsin and Michigan, he said.
Personhood bids represent a change from the strategy of eroding access traditionally embraced by abortion foes, said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based compiler of reproductive-health data.
Mississippi’s amendment would go beyond the abortion ban that South Dakota’s legislature passed in 2006, Nash said. That law, which voters overturned, made exceptions for the life of the woman. Similar bans adopted in 1991 in Louisiana and Utah, which included some exceptions for rape and incest, were struck down in federal court, she said.
States have passed 84 laws restricting abortion access in 2011, the most of any year, Guttmacher data show. Only four states had higher teen pregnancy rates than Mississippi in 2005, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the institute.
‘The Lord’s Teachings’
Mason, 30, founded Personhood USA in a Denver suburb between failed personhood-amendment bids in Colorado in 2010 and 2008. He said those attempts were still victories because they raised awareness of the issue, just as Mississippi’s will. The group has spent about $1 million on the Mississippi campaign this year, he said, matching contributions from the American Family Association, a Tupelo-based evangelical Christian group.
Abortion is against “my moral belief, which is based in the Lord’s teachings,” Janis Lane, a 63-year old retired marketing manager from Byram, said over dinner this week at an Italian restaurant near the capital. She compared her fight to end the procedure with her father’s against Nazism during World War II.
Lane sat beside four female friends, fellow members of a statewide network of mostly Republican and Tea Party activists who devote hours each week to picketing Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic, in Jackson, and delivering “choose life” brochures to churches. They nodded in unison when a fellow diner expressed thanks for their help in closing at least seven abortion clinics in the state since 1984.
Opponents face an uphill battle in persuading people to vote down the amendment, said John Bruce, who teaches political science at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. That’s because the state’s widespread opposition to abortion crosses party and demographic lines, and because the Yes on 26 campaign has succeeded in equating support for the amendment with so- called pro-life values, he said.
To counter that notion, volunteers for Mississippians for Healthy Families, which heads a coalition of opposition groups, have staffed phone banks six days a week from four field offices around the state for the past month.
“You can be pro-life and still vote no, because 26 simply goes too far,” says one ad running on local television. The organization relies on funding from individual donors and Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide, and has received more than $150,000 in donations in the past 10 days, said campaign manager Jonathan Levy. One staffer dressed up for Halloween as a pack of birth control pills.
A statement from the Mississippi Medical Association said the amendment’s reach would go beyond abortion access. Unintended consequences, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says, may include criminal prosecution of women who miscarry or use contraception and of doctors who administer life-saving treatment to women with abnormal pregnancies or disease. The measure “undermines access to safe and reliable infertility medical treatments” and may lead doctors to flee the state, according to the National Infertility Association.
The Yes on 26 campaign disputes those claims.
The amendment’s “fatally ambiguous” wording makes it impossible to predict what the legal ramifications would be, I. Glenn Cohen, an assistant professor at Harvard Law School, said by telephone from Cambridge, Massachusetts. A fetus might be counted toward the number of people allowed in car-pool lane, for example, though courts may avoid such absurd interpretations, he said.
“That ambiguity is striking a lot of pro-life people here as concerning,” Governor Haley Barbour, who describes himself as pro-life, said Nov. 2 on MSNBC. The term-limited Republican, whose replacement voters will choose next week, said he hadn’t made up his mind which way he’ll vote.
The two candidates vying to replace him have. Phil Bryant, the Republican lieutenant governor, and Johnny DuPree, the Democratic mayor of Hattiesburg, support the personhood amendment.
To contact the reporter on this story: Esmé E. Deprez in Jackson, Mississippi at email@example.com;
Could a “right to life” bill pass in the General Assembly next year?
13th District Republican House Delegate Bob Marshall plans to re-introduce HB 1440 next year which would give fertilized eggs constitutional rights.
Angela Pellerano Weekend Anchor/Reporter
November 4, 2011
“The right to life is the most fundamental right that we have”, says 13th District Republican Delegate, Bob Marshall.
That’s why he says he supports the so-called personhood amendment appearing before Mississippi voters November 8.
The amendment would give fertilized eggs constitutional rights. It reads in part, “persons shall include every human being the moment of fertilization…”
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“I’ve been trying to get a personhood statute since 2007. I got it to the House floor, but I lost it at that point”, he said.
But women’s rights groups believe that if an amendment like the one being proposed in Mississippi is passed, it would give the state too much power over reproductive issues, even birth control.
Marshall says he believes that power is an important one for the state to wield.
“Because all the so called horror stories that Planned Parenthood contrived didn’t happen when abortion was illegal before 1973, so this is just a smoke screen to get people away from this”, he said.
Planned Parenthood was not available for comment.
For years, Virginia’s General Assembly has been divided with Republicans ruling the House of Delegates, and democrats ruling the Senate. But, if there’s a shift of two seats next Tuesday, the Republicans will eventually control all of Virginia State government.
Trying to allay fears of radical changes, Marshall says he doubts his bill would pass because he says moderate Republicans usually side with Democrats on right to life issues.
“And they continue to kill these bills”, Marshall said, challenging them to do otherwise.
Mississippi attempts to define the start of personhood
A state initiative would ban all abortions. But opponents of the ballot measure say it would also ban many birth control pills and hamper popular infertility treatments, claims proponents are calling ‘scare tactics.’
By Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times
November 4, 2011, 7:37 p.m.
Reporting from Clarksdale, Miss.
Gail Giaramita was walking door-to-door in this old cotton town on a recent afternoon, genially informing voters about the simple choice they faced when it came to Initiative 26, the statewide ballot measure that would define personhood as beginning at the moment of fertilization.
“If you believe that the unborn are human beings, you need to vote yes,” Giaramita explained to W.L. Wilkins, proprietor of Big Mama’s grocery store. “If you believe that women should continue to have the right to abort their babies, you need to vote no.”
If that’s all there was to it — if Initiative 26 would simply ban all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest — this proposed amendment to the state Constitution would be controversial enough. But opponents of the measure are warning of other potential consequences, including a ban on many birth control pills and a severe hampering of popular infertility treatments.
Proponents call these charges untrue “scare tactics.”
Either way, the measure’s passage would count as an unprecedented attempt to nullify the abortion right granted under Roe vs. Wade. Personhood USA, the main supporter of the Mississippi measure, says a victory here could “change [the] abortion debate,” as part of a “larger, global movement to define when life begins in an effort to undercut the case for legalized abortion.”
At the same time, however, many observers, including some key antiabortion activists, expect the initiative to be immediately challenged in federal court, and probably struck down, with new rulings that may end up strengthening the hand of abortion supporters.
Among the doubters is Joseph Latino, the Roman Catholic bishop of Jackson, Miss., who has called the personhood effort “noble,” but declined to endorse it, warning that it “could ultimately harm our efforts to overthrow Roe vs. Wade.”
The idea of ending abortion by retooling the state-level legal definition of a person is not new, but it may have its best chance of success in Tuesday’s vote in Mississippi — the most conservative state in the nation, according to a Gallup poll released in February. Both Democratic and Republican candidates for governor and attorney general here support the initiative, and as of last month, the “yes” faction has a substantial fundraising lead on the “no” crowd.
“I think our chances are very good,” said Les Riley, the initiative’s sponsor and founder of the group Personhood Mississippi. “But I don’t believe in chance. I believe in providence.”
In recent years, a number of states have considered and rejected similar proposals, most notably Colorado, where propositions were voted down in 2008 and 2010. Those efforts and the one in Mississippi were backed by Personhood USA, a Colorado-based group that has attracted antiabortion activists fed up with waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to tilt in their favor.
The group is hoping to put similar initiatives before voters in a number of states next year, including in California, where supporters plan to begin gathering signatures in January, President Keith Mason said.
In Mississippi, the initiative’s opponents are characterizing it as a case of government overreach, in apparent deference to the state’s conservative tenor.
One TV ad from the “vote no” group Mississippians for Healthy Families features a rape victim who says the initiative goes “too far.”
“It’s perfectly acceptable to be pro-life and against Initiative 26,” she says.
Though few top state politicians of either party have criticized the initiative, medical groups have. The Mississippi State Medical Assn. has warned that if the initiative passes, doctors could be charged with murder or wrongful death for “employing techniques physicians have used for years.”
The Mississippi Nurses Assn. has said that some birth controls pills could become illegal, because the hormones they contain not only prevent ovulation, they might prevent a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus.
A group called Parents Against MS 26 argues that in vitro fertilization would be essentially rendered ineffective because the initiative could ban the freezing of leftover embryos created as part of the IVF process. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine has stated that the initiative would “thwart the ability of those who suffer from infertility to seek treatment appropriate to their disease.”
The group Yes on 26 has called these and other concerns “scare tactics” promulgated by national groups such as Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. The initiative, proponents say, would not ban in vitro fertilization per se, only the destruction of unused embryos. Doctors, they say, would not be prevented from saving the life of a woman during a problematic pregnancy. And they promise that “most forms” of birth control pills would not be banned.
If passed, the interpretation of the law would not be up to the initiative’s authors, but to the courts, and possibly the state Legislature, said I. Glenn Cohen, a Harvard Law professor who has been following the issue.
On the streets of Clarksdale, Giaramita, a 56-year-old volunteer for the Yes on 26 campaign, made her case with the sweet, Bible-based style she honed in 2010; she had bid for a congressional seat as a member of the conservative Constitution Party but lost.
She tried to keep her message focused on abortion, and found a largely receptive audience as she passed out handbills with a photo of a fetus and the message, “Give me a chance. I am a person.”
She had the vote of Oliver Hicks Jr., a retired carpenter who gave her a hearty “Amen” as she made her pitch.
Hicks said God did not want us to kill “unborn kids.” As for the other issues? “That’s just something they’re saying,” he said.
James Bopp Jr., an attorney and well-known antiabortion activist, has outlined what he believes to be the most likely legal fate of a personhood amendment like Mississippi’s: A federal circuit court would strike it down. An appellate court would uphold the decision. And the Supreme Court would decline to review it.
The only ones who would gain in that scenario, he argues, would be the opponents’ lawyers, who would collect statutory attorney’s fees from the state.
“The effort will have enriched the pro-abortion forces for no gain for the pro-life side,” he wrote in an influential 2007 memo on personhood amendments, which he said still reflected his position on the issue. “In fact, there will be a loss because there will be yet another federal court decision declaring that state law on abortion is superseded by the federal Constitution.”
The Liberty Counsel, a conservative public-interest law firm, has argued that it is “by no means certain” that a lower court would find a personhood amendment unconstitutional. The group sees “no alternative to a personhood approach that offers any chance of ending abortion in the foreseeable future.”
Brad Prewitt, executive director of the Yes on 26 campaign, said supporters can’t worry about how things will shake out in the federal courts. Rather, he said, they need to focus on what’s right.
Giaramita, traipsing between lawns in Clarksdale, agreed.
“This is not an intellectual decision,” she said. “This is not a political decision. It’s a moral decision.”
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
The Christian Post, Ken Connor
For decades now, the “pro-choice” movement has successfully distorted the abortion debate by ignoring the essential question – is an unborn child a living human or isn’t it? – in favor of their infamous “right to choose” canard. A recent op-ed in the Washington Post entitled “How an anti-abortion push to redefine ‘person’ could hurt women’s rights” employs this tactic shamelessly:
“The people who attack reproductive rights are turning a blind eye to the impossible choices families have to make together, instead callously insisting that it’s lawmakers who know what’s best for women, not women themselves… The logo for Personhood USA, a leading organization behind the measures, echoes that idea. It shows what looks like a full-term fetus curled up in a map of the United States, which acts as its womb. The woman is conspicuously absent. Personhood advocates are interested in only one kind of ‘person.’”
Credit should go to the author of this piece for at least being honest. Founder of Feministing.com and author of The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession With Virginity Is Hurting Young Women, Jessica Valenti clearly does not believe that the unborn are living human beings. Pedaling the myth that “science” shows no evidence that life begins at conception and citing a 2005 legislative proposal that would have criminalized “suspicious” miscarriages in Virginia(straw man, anyone?), Valenti paints a doomsday scenario of a “personhood” world in which women are prosecuted for failing to take prenatal vitamins, miscarriages are investigated by law enforcement, and of course, abortion is no longer available on demand.
In reality, what the personhood initiative seeks to do is reinvigorate a culture of life in a society that is increasingly selling its soul in the name of “rights” and the autonomy of the individual. Contrary to what abortion advocates claim, the scientific evidence does support the humanity of the unborn. From the moment of conception the mother is carrying a genetically distinct human being in her womb.
The consequences of denying this irrefutable medical fact have been tragic. Since 1973 over 50 million children have been aborted in the United States. This is tragic not only because these tiny human beings were never given a chance at life, it is tragic because the mothers of these children – often overwhelmed by fear and panic and unaware of the full implications of their actions – must forever live with the emotional and psychological consequences of their choice.
Eradicating post-abortion guilt is a big part of the campaign to venerate a woman’s “right to choose.” By refusing to acknowledge the personhood of the unborn child, American society and its legal system has fostered a disposable man mentality. If a baby is unwanted, inconvenient, or imperfect, the it’s mother has a right to kill it. (This “unwanted, therefore not worthy of protecting or preserving” mentality has jeopardized the lives of the handicapped and the frail elderly, who are themselves often inconvenient and expensive, and has fostered an unhealthy, me first, self-centered attitude.) Ironically, of course, if the same woman decides that she wants to have a child, then the process of pregnancy and childbirth magically transforms into a sacred miracle that is to be respected and celebrated. The same embryo that “wasn’t human” when she didn’t want to be pregnant is now “her child” simply according to her feelings about the situation. It’s all about how the mother chooses to define her pregnancy.
It is the job of our legal system to reconcile competing interests when they come into conflict with one another. At present, there is no mechanism in place to advocate for the interests of the unborn, and this is what the personhood movement seeks to change. Apart from such a change, abortions will continue at epidemic proportions, and all of humanity will be devalued in the process.
Ken Connor is the Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC, the former President of the Family Research Council, and a nationally recognized trial lawyer.
ABC News’ Devin Dwyer, Emily Friedman and Z. Byron Wolf report:
Democrats have opened an emotionally charged new front in their campaign against Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, using a scathing new web video to blast his swing to the right on the issue of abortion rights.
You can view the video HERE.
The video features an exchange from Fox News’ “Huckabee” show when host and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee asked Romney whether he’d support redefining personhood in an effort to end abortion.
“Would you have supported the constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?” Huckabee asked.
“Absolutely,” Romney replied.
In the video, Romney’s “absolutely” response to Huckabee is then juxtaposed with women in Mississippi voicing concerns about a pending ballot measure there that would redefine personhood in the state if approved by voters next week. Critics say the step would effectively outlaw abortion in all cases, many forms of birth control, and infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization.
The ad is somewhat misleading, however, leaving unanswered whether Romney is referring to the Mississippi legislation or another so-called personhood amendment, an important distinction. Much of the debate on the Mississippi ballot measure has arisen because it is ambiguous.
“It is obvious why those who support abortion rights will be uncomfortable with this amendment. But opponents of abortion rights may find that it covers more than they bargained for, including some forms of in vitro fertilization and birth control,” law professors Glenn Coehn and Jonathan Will wrote in the New York Times this week.
“Indeed, even opponents of abortion rights who would like nothing more than to give the courts an opportunity to reverse Roe v. Wade may find this amendment a bad vehicle for doing so,” they wrote.
Romney’s position on abortion, while it has appeared to change dramatically since his time as Massachusetts Governor and a Senate candidate in that state, still provides for exceptions for rape, incest and cases where the mother’s life is in danger.
At the same time, he told Huckabee in that same Fox News interview, according to reports, that he thinks the Supreme Court should revisit Roe v. Wade and he would give responsibility for regulating abortion to states like Mississippi.
“My view is the Supreme Court should reverse Roe v. Wade and send back to the states the responsibility for deciding whether they’re going to have abortion legal in their state or not,” Romney told Huckabee.
By tying Romney to the so-called personhood amendment campaign, which is gaining steam in five states plus Mississippi, Democrats continue their effort to cast Romney as an extreme figure and serial flip-flopper, even on hot-button social issues.
“On an issue that speaks to deeply held core beliefs for most Americans, Mitt Romney has once again shown that he’s only interested in adopting what core beliefs give him the most support at that very moment,” Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said.
Schultz cited a Washington Post report that found Romney had courted abortion rights advocates during his run for Massachusetts governor in 2002, promising to protect the state’s abortion rights laws and even act to soften the Republican Party’s stance on the issue on the national stage. He now opposes all forms of abortion.
The Romney campaign responded to the ad, saying it was an attempt to distract voters from Democrats’ economic record. “It’s too bad this White House isn’t as focused on attacking unemployment as they are in attacking our campaign,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
UPDATE: The DNC followed its video release with an email blast to supporters from executive director Patrick Gaspard, who suggested Romney’s support for a personhood amendment would equate birth control with murder.
“This is the most radical position any of the Republican candidates have taken on this issue, and may be the most radical position any of them have taken on any substantive issue in the race for the nomination so far,” Gaspard wrote.
Romney did not immediately offer a direct response to Democrats’ charge about his views on personhood and birth control.
PEARL — Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said Thursday he voted after all for a state ballot initiative that would declare life begins at fertilization.
The Republican said he voted by absentee ballot Thursday because he won’t be in his hometown for Tuesday’s election.
Barbour had told reporters Wednesday he was undecided because he thinks the initiative is ambiguous and he had concerns about how it might affect in vitro fertilization and ectopic pregnancies. His comments angered some social conservatives pushing for the change.
“I voted for it. I struggled with it,” Barbour said Thursday in response to questions about his absentee voting.
“I had some concerns about it, have some concerns about it,” Barbour said. “But I think all in all, I know I believe life begins at conception. So I think the right thing to do was to vote for it.”
Barbour weighed a presidential bid in 2012 but decided against it last April.
He answered questions after appearing at a campaign rally for Phil Bryant, the Republican trying to succeed him as governor.
On Wednesday, Barbour said of the ballot measure: “It doesn’t say life begins at conception.
It says life begins at fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof — something to that effect. Some very strongly pro-life people have raised questions about the ambiguity and about the actual consequences — whether there are unforeseen, unintended consequences. And I’ll have to say that I have heard those concerns and they give me some pause.”
Barbour’s statements upset Mississippi conservatives such as Dr. Shani Meck, an OB-GYN who practices in Jackson and who supports the “personhood” amendment. She said Thursday that she thought Barbour seemed confused.
“Conception is to fertilization as the Republican Party is to the GOP,” Meck said Thursday. “They are one and the same.”
The initiative is backed by a Colorado-based group, Personhood USA, which is seeking to put similar life-at-fertilization measures on ballots next year in Florida, Montana, Ohio and Oregon. Keith Mason, co-founder of Personhood USA, said the group ultimately wants to add such an amendment in the U.S. Constitution.
Before Barbour revealed his vote, Parenthood USA issued a news release Thursday attacking Barbour for accepting campaign contributions in 2007 from Pfizer, Inc. and its political action committee.
“Was he influenced by misinformation? Or donations from abortion pill makers?” Mason said in a statement.
Meanwhile, some voters received automated telephone calls Thursday urging them to vote against the amendment. The calls used a recording of Barbour’s comments from Wednesday, in which he expressed reservations about the ballot initiative. The calls were paid for by Mississippians for Healthy Families, a group that opposes the amendment
Barbour’s office declined to comment on the Parenthood USA criticism or the automated telephone calls.
If the Mississippi initiative passes Tuesday, it would become part of the state constitution 30 days after the election results are certified, probably by mid-December. Supporters say that if that happens, they expect it to be challenged in court and that challenge could become an attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established a legal right to abortion.
The initiative is endorsed by both candidates in a governor’s race that’s also being decided Tuesday, Bryant and Democrat Johnny DuPree.
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