Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Personhood amendment

A fertilized human egg

The New York Times
October 25, 2011

Push for ‘Personhood’ Amendment Represents New Tack in Abortion Fight

“A constitutional amendment facing voters in Mississippi on Nov. 8, and similar initiatives brewing in half a dozen other states including Florida and Ohio, would declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, effectively branding abortion and some forms of birth control as murder.

With this far-reaching anti-abortion strategy, the proponents of what they call personhood amendments hope to reshape the national debate.

“I view it as transformative,” said Brad Prewitt, a lawyer and executive director of the Yes on 26 campaign, which is named for the Mississippi proposition. “Personhood is bigger than just shutting abortion clinics; it’s an opportunity for people to say that we’re made in the image of God.”

Many doctors and women’s health advocates say the proposals would cause a dangerous intrusion of criminal law into medical care, jeopardizing women’s rights and even their lives.

The amendment in Mississippi would ban virtually all abortions, including those resulting from rape or incest. It would bar some birth control methods, including IUDs and “morning-after pills” that prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. It would also outlaw the destruction of embryos created in laboratories.

The amendment has been endorsed by candidates for governor from both major parties, and it appears likely to pass, said W. Martin Wiseman, director of the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University. Legal challenges would surely follow, but even if the amendment is ultimately declared unconstitutional, it could disrupt vital care, critics say, and force years of costly court battles.

“This is the most extreme in a field of extreme anti-abortion measures that have been before the states this year,” said Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a legal advocacy group.

Opponents, who were handing out brochures on Saturday to tailgate partiers before the University of Southern Mississippi football game in Hattiesburg, said they hoped to dispel the impression that the amendment simply bars abortions — a popular idea in Mississippi — by warning that it would also limit contraceptives, make doctors afraid to save women with life-threatening pregnancies and possibly hamper in vitro fertility treatments.

The drive for personhood amendments has split the anti-abortion forces nationally. Some groups call it an inspired moral leap, while traditional leaders of the fight, including National Right to Life and the Roman Catholic bishops, have refused to promote it, charging that the tactic is reckless and could backfire, leading to a Supreme Court defeat that would undermine progress in carving away at Roe v. Wade.

The approach, granting legal rights to embryos, is fundamentally different from the abortion restrictions that have been adopted in dozens of states. These try to narrow or hamper access to abortions by, for example, sharply restricting the procedures at as early as 20 weeks, requiring women to view ultrasounds of the fetus, curbing insurance coverage and imposing expensive regulations on clinics.

The Mississippi amendment aims to sidestep existing legal battles, simply stating that “the term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.”

A similar measure has been defeated twice, by large margins, in Colorado. But the national campaign, promoted by Personhood USA, a Colorado-based group, found more receptive ground in Mississippi, where anti-abortion sentiment crosses party and racial lines, and where the state already has so many restrictions on abortion that only one clinic performs the procedure.

In 2009, an ardent abortion foe named Les Riley formed a state personhood group and started collecting the signatures needed to reach the ballot. Evangelicals and other longtime abortion opponents have pressed the case, and Proposition 26 has the support of a range of political leaders. Its passage could energize similar drives brewing in Florida, Michigan, Montana, Ohio, Wisconsin and other states.

In Mississippi, the emotional battle is being fought with radio and television ads, phone banks and old-fashioned canvassing.

Among the picnicking fans being lobbied outside the stadium in Hattiesburg on Saturday, Lauree Mooney, 40, and her husband, Jerry Mooney, 45, U.S.M. alumni, disagreed with each other. She said that she is against abortion but that the amendment is “too extreme.” Mr. Mooney said he would vote yes because “I’ve always been against abortion.”

Shelley Shoemake, 41, a chiropractor, said the proposal is “yanking me in one direction and the other.” She knows women who had abortions as teenagers, and feels compassion for them. “I’ve got a lot of praying to do” before the vote, she said.

Mississippi will also elect a new governor on Nov. 8. The Republican candidate, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, is co-chairman of Yes on 26 and his campaign distributes bumper stickers for the initiative. The Democratic candidate, Johnny DuPree, the mayor of Hattiesburg and the state’s first black major-party candidate for governor in modern times, says he will vote for it though he is worried about its impact on medical care and contraception.

No one can yet be sure of how the amendment would affect criminal proceedings, said Jonathan Will, director of the Bioethics and Health Law Center at the Mississippi College School of Law. Could a woman taking a morning-after pill be charged with murder?

But many leaders of the anti-abortion movement fear that the strategy will be counterproductive. Federal courts would almost surely declare the amendment unconstitutional, said James Bopp Jr., a prominent conservative lawyer from Terre Haute, Ind., and general counsel of National Right to Life, since it contradicts a woman’s current right to an abortion in the early weeks of pregnancy.

“From the standpoint of protecting unborn lives it’s utterly futile,” he said, “and it has the grave risk that if it did get to the Supreme Court, the court would write an even more extreme abortion policy.”

Bishop Joseph Latino of Jackson, Miss., said in a statement last week that the Roman Catholic Church does not support Proposition 26 because “the push for a state amendment could ultimately harm our efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade.”

Conservative Christian groups including the American Family Association and the Family Research Council are firmly behind the proposal.

Dr. Randall S. Hines, a fertility specialist in Jackson working against Proposition 26 with the group Mississippians for Healthy Families, said that the amendment reflects “biological ignorance.” Most fertilized eggs, he said, do not implant in the uterus or develop further.

“Once you recognize that the majority of fertilized eggs don’t become people, then you recognize how absurd this amendment is,” Dr. Hines said. He fears severe unintended consequences for doctors and women dealing with ectopic or other dangerous pregnancies and for in vitro fertility treatments. “We’ll be asking the Legislature, the governor, judges to decide what is best for the patient,” he said.

Dr. Eric Webb, an obstetrician in Tupelo, Miss., who has spoken out on behalf of Proposition 26, said that the concerns about wider impacts were overblown and that the critics were “avoiding the central moral question.”

“With the union of the egg and sperm, that is life, and genetically human,” Dr. Webb said.

Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, said he did not agree that the Supreme Court would necessarily reject a personhood amendment. The ultimate goal, he said, is a federal amendment, with a victory in Mississippi as the first step.”

The New York Times
October 27, 2011

The ‘Personhood’ Initiative

“A ballot measure going before voters in Mississippi on Nov. 8 would define the term “person” in the State Constitution to include fertilized human eggs and grant to fertilized eggs the legal rights and protections that apply to people. It is among the most extreme assaults in the push to end women’s reproductive rights.

The aim is to redefine abortion and some of the most widely used forms of contraception as murder, obliterating a woman’s right to make childbearing decisions under the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.

Besides outlawing all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest or when a woman’s life is in danger, and banning any contraception that may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, including birth control pills, the amendment carries many implications, some quite serious.

It could curtail medical research involving embryos, shutter fertility clinics and put doctors in legal jeopardy for providing needed medical care that might endanger a pregnancy. Pregnant women also could become subject to criminal prosecution. A fertilized egg might be eligible to inherit money or be counted when drawing voting districts by population. Because a multitude of laws use the terms “person” or “people,” there would be no shortage of unintended consequences.

A similar ballot measure was handily rejected by Colorado voters in 2008 and 2010. But, in Mississippi, which has already imposed so many burdensome restrictions that the state has only one abortion clinic, there is a real possibility that voters will not react as wisely. Voter approval could energize similar “personhood” initiatives in half a dozen other states, including Florida and Ohio.

Both the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor in Mississippi have endorsed the measure, even though some traditional leaders in the anti-abortion battle, including National Right to Life, have declined to do so, viewing it as a reckless strategy that could lead to a defeat in the Supreme Court. This extreme measure would protect zygotes at the expense of all women while creating a legal quagmire — at least until the courts rule it unconstitutional, as they should.”

Personal comment: If the knuckle draggers who are pushing ‘personhood’ for fertilized eggs have their way women in Mississippi and other radically conservative states will be continuously under suspicion, except perhaps for Nuns. I can’t imagine that legislation so terribly ill-advised would pass, but in the Deep South you never know. Hopefully women who use birth control will vote against ‘Personhood’ as the backers will almost certainly ban hormonal contraceptives and IUDs as abortifacients because with ‘rights’ granted to a fertilized egg the possibility of an implantation failure would be murder.

How would they know a fertilized egg didn’t implant? It is very difficult to detect an egg expelled from the uterus. Would ‘Fertility Police’ be established to test all women between the ages of 12 and 50 on a weekly basis for pregnancy so the government could ensure any fetus was carried to term? And the conservatives say they want smaller less invasive government! Go figure!


  1. Personhood amendments are unconstitutional, but these kooks are just, as the articles above say, want to reverse Roe v. Wade and force women to be baby makers and nothing else.

  2. Progressives are a cancer to our society, and conservatives are not all kooks, trying to protect the innocent is not backward at all, soo many people will tell you dont eat meat its mean to kill the animals, they have rights, or they say save the seals but will not bat an eye to kill a baby in partial birth abortion, where it is a living baby carried to near term and it is stabbed its brain sucked out and yanked out like garbage.

    I belive it says in the good book be obediant, but also for the men not to abuse power or lord over, man and woman are complimentry to each others differances, like logic and faith they are not counter to each other but complementry like two wings of a bird one helps reinforce the other


  3. JJ:

    Take a good look at the "personhood amendments" being offered. First of all, it outlaws ALL abortions, with no exceptions for rape, incest and when the life or health of the mother is threatened. Secondly, in vitro fertilization is outlawed, so would-be parents would be SOL if they cannot conceive naturally. Third, all forms of birth control and contraception would be outlawed -- no pill, no IUDs, heck, they might even outlaw condoms and diaphrams if you'd let them.

    Face it, JJ, this law is counterproductive, and if the "constitutional conservatives" or "libertarians" want less government, they they should stay out of a woman's uterus!

  4. It may be a free contry, but there are universal truths that like it or not are true, and must be defended, and second there are people who cant have kids that want to adopt but cant due to the shortage of babys up for adoption, abortion has wiped out 20 million a year for sometime, and it affects the mother too the scars can take an emotional toll, and can scar the inside affecting the abillity to have kids latter on also, but you prob knew that. There are other methods to have kids besides invitro also.

  5. The problem I have with ‘personhood’ amendments is that they are based on Faith-Based science by (perhaps) well intentioned, but ignorant people who will do anything to prevent a woman from having control over her own body.

    It was well intentioned but ignorant people in The Catholic Church who held astronomy back for centuries in Western Europe when the inquisition tried Galileo for heresy for insisting the Earth and planets revolve around a stationary Sun at the center of the solar system. He was found guilty and forced to recant his theory and suffered house arrest for the rest of his life.

    Now however, not even the Catholic Church is so foolish as to be willing to call a fertilized human egg a person.

  6. well it is the belief that life begins at conception, for the roman church that is, and personhood occurs when the egg is embedded in the uterus? "spelling" that is what I was told twice, however things are not always black and white, if a girl is raped at a very young age or if physicaly inable to have kids for risk to her life, she has the option to go to a hospital and have the drug I belive mifopresten or what would be called the day after pill to flush out her reproductive organs before it can imbed, or if a pregnacy is lost though surgery and every avenue has been made to try to save the life of a child and it results in an accidental abortion then that would be two occasions in which such things in the eyes of the roman church would be permissable.

    as for the astronomy while it is true that they did that to galileo, there were also many early sciantists that were religious and priests. Cappernicus is one, and gregor mendal was a russian monk


  7. The voters in Mississippi are smarter than the Personhood initiative originators thought and they defeated it. Calling a fertilized egg a ‘person’ with rights is absurd and the voters understood that.

  8. JJ:

    The problem with what the "Christian conservatives" were trying to do with passing this "personhood amendment" is denying a woman's choice as to what she can do with her own body. The amendment would have outlawed ALL abortions, which included denying abortions for rape, incest and when the life or health of the mother is in jeopardy. Now, if your wife, girlfriend, mother or sister were raped, and that rape results in pregnancy, wouldn't you want her wishes to be honored in regards to that embryo/fetus?

    I know you are willing to have chemical abortions for rape/incest, and would allow "accidental" abortions in regards to other, unrelated medical proceedures. However, had the Mississippi amendment been passed, even those would have been outlawed. It went too far when a fertilized egg would have more rights than the woman carrying it. Like it or not, until birth, the fetus/embryo is still a part of the woman's uterus and IS NOT A PERSON. A person must have his/her body independent of another in order to survive. In the tantric tradition, a baby isn't alive until he/she takes several breaths. Until then, it's at the mercy of the woman's will.

  9. Well that depends on what point a child is considered a child, in the womb even after a short time the fetus can feel pain, and react to its environment if it is too stressed.

    there is an old chains are only as strong as their weakest link, if it is not protected, it fails quick. same with a socity.


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I'm a classically trained dancer and SAB grad. A Dance Captain and go-to girl overseeing high-roller entertainment for a major casino/resort