No issue has moved more rapidly to the forefront of the national debate over women’s health than “personhood.” Across the country anti-women’s health activists are aggressively pushing this radical idea, dramatically shifting the conversation from whether women deserve access to abortion to whether women AND families deserve access to lifesaving health care.
By defining a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, the so-called “personhood” measures would ban abortion with no exceptions. It could also block access to common forms of birth control, and outlaw medical treatments such as in-vitro fertilization and the treatment of pregnant women with cancer.
Voters have considered personhood amendments three times since 2008 — twice in Colorado and last November in Mississippi. Every time, voters overwhelmingly rejected the initiatives — in Colorado by margins of 2-1!
Unfortunately, lack of popularity isn’t stopping anti-choice activists from promoting similar initiatives in several other states, including Ohio, Montana, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Oregon. In addition, out-of-touch state legislators are also working to introduce personhood through legislation in Mississippi and Oklahoma.
Even though personhood is completely out of the mainstream and unpopular with voters, several Republican presidential candidates signed Personhood USA’s pledge promoting it during the primary season. Even Mitt Romney, while not signing the pledge, has indicated his support for “life at conception” amendments to state constitutions, and is on record supporting the Republican Party platform, which calls for “a human life amendment to the Constitution.”
Personhood is fundamentally different from other abortion restrictions, which try to limit access to abortions by restricting procedures or limiting insurance coverage. Granting legal rights to embryos would go far beyond that and could have sweeping implications for the following:
Lifesaving Treatments — Beyond banning nearly all abortions including those resulting from rape or incest, in some cases, the personhood amendment would deny women the chance to receive treatment, even in the event of pregnancy complications.
Birth Control — A spokesman of the personhood movement, Walter Hoye, confirmed the amendment is designed to ban birth control. When asked on The Diane Rehm Show if said he was “saying that the birth control pill could be considered as taking the life of a human being,” he responded that “we’re taking the life of a human being with some forms of birth control and if birth control falls into that category, yes I am.” [The Florida Independent, 11/1/11]
IUDs and Emergency Contraception — The personhood amendment could ban two common forms of birth control, including IUDs and emergency contraception, which can prevent pregnancy after a rape.
In-Vitro Fertilization — Because fertilization can be defined in number of ways, including when the embryo is formed, the personhood amendment could ban many forms of in-vitro fertilization, making the process more difficult and denying many couples the chance to become pregnant.
Birth control is immensely popular — supported by a majority of Americans — and yet these anti-choice and anti-women’s health extremists continue to push more and more restrictions on women’s access to the health care they deserve. As if that weren’t enough, the measures they back could deny families the chance to get pregnant and criminalize lifesaving and preventive healthcare. While the personhood amendments may have been defeated in Mississippi and Colorado, personhood supporters are undeterred in their commitment to push similar initiatives on ballots in their home states. And with the upcoming 2012 election, they are doing their best to convince allies in Congress to support and push these measures forward. We can’t let this happen.
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