A Dangerous Initiative: "Personhood" Measure Being Pushed in Montana
By: Lindsay Love, Communications Manager, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana
Opponents of women’s health in Montana are pushing for a new so-called “personhood” amendment (CI-108) currently seeking qualification for the November, 2012 ballot. If this initiative makes it to the November ballot and is passed, it would define “personhood” under the Montana Constitution as beginning at the moment of fertilization. So, fertilized eggs would be granted full rights and privileges delineated in the state constitution.
Voters should be skeptical of this initiative, which goes too far in meddling with the personal lives of Montanans. At a time when the government should be focused on jobs and the economy, issues like CI-108 do nothing but divert attention from the real concerns of Montanans while interfering with families’ most private decisions. Voters should be skeptical of CI-108 because it has no exception for rape or incest. In fact, it could outlaw everything from birth control to in vitro fertilization to stem cell research.
While opponents of women’s health are pushing for this dangerous and extreme measure, health care providers, on the other hand, are deeply disturbed about the dangers it poses to women and families. By granting constitutional rights to a fertilized egg, proponents of CI-108 are giving the government an open door into every decision a family makes before or during a pregnancy.
“Personhood” poses a grave threat to a doctor’s right to provide patients with basic medical care. That’s why medical organizations oppose extreme measures like this, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the primary medical organization for women’s health care providers (with approximately 55,000 member physicians nationwide), the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and RESOLVE: The National Infertility Organization, to name a few. These organizations understand that “personhood” measures put the health of women in jeopardy. They understand that personhood could sideline what really matters here -- the health of the patient -- in favor of government intrusion into doctor’s offices and exam rooms.
Personhood necessarily produces so many legal uncertainties about the status of embryos that it creates very real and very troubling roadblocks for doctors treating pregnant women. In short, personhood makes the waters far too muddy. If passed into law, the medical community would be forced to ask questions like:
Would women who miscarry have to defend themselves against potential criminal prosecution?
If a pregnancy has complications, could a woman’s physician be held criminally liable?
Could physicians provide life saving and medically necessary treatment to women experiencing medical complications during pregnancy, such as ectopic pregnancies?
Would clinics with high miscarriage rates after artificial inseminations be at risk for legal action?
Would women with uterine abnormalities be forbidden to try to have babies because problems with their uteruses reduce the chances that an embryo will successfully implant?
Make no mistake; personhood is a threat, not just to the health of women across the state, but to the practice of health care. This is why physician organizations oppose measures like CI-108, and voters of this state should consider carefully the consequences this initiative would have for Montana families.