The Extreme, Hidden Agenda of ‘Personhood’
From afar, the logo for the so-called ‘fetal personhood’ amendment campaign in Colorado looks hand drawn — as if an activist spent all night painting a fully-formed baby, complete with fingers and toes, into the round of the number six. The proponents of Amendment 62, which would give full legal rights to a fertilized egg and thereby ban abortion in all cases, want to send the message that their supposedly innocuous ballot measure is a grassroots campaign of Coloradans who want to make a minor change to the state Constitution.
Deception as Strategy
Deception is the cornerstone of the so-called personhood movement. Far from being a state-based, grassroots effort concerned about the rights of zygotes, Colorado’s Amendment 62 is the latest effort from a national coalition of anti-abortion groups positioning to overturn Roe v. Wade and permanently establish the rights of fertilized eggs above those of living, breathing women.
If you’d like a preview of this no-Roe, personhood America, look no further than the far-reaching consequences of Amendment 62 in Colorado. The amendment’s sneaky wording — which imagines life beginning at the moment of ‘biological development,’ a term unrecognized by either health or legal professionals — would not only ban abortion, but also common forms of hormonal birth control and emergency contraception, even for rape survivors. Doctors have warned that the amendment would curb their ability to render emergency services to a woman until she’s given a pregnancy test for fear of being charged with murder if the treatment damaged a fertilized egg. They’ve also warned that it would halt in vitro fertilization and stem cell research.
Personhood Amendment Effort Not the First
This isn’t the first time personhood proponents have set their sights on the Centennial State, which they picked because the process of getting initiatives on the ballot is one of the easiest in the nation. (Also on the ballot in Colorado: financial Amendments 60 and 61 and Prop 101, which would strip education and state infrastructure of almost all tax revenue, Amendment 63, which would set the cash-starved state up for a lengthy court battle by barring implementation of the national health reform legislation, and also a Denver ballot measure that would establish a committee to prepare residents for encounters with extraterrestrial beings and their vehicles.) In 2008, a similar ‘personhood’ measure was defeated by a 3:1 margin. But the combination of a conservative political climate, likely lower voter turnout for the midterm election, and a flood of outside anti-abortion money and activists into the state, make the possibility of passage startlingly real.
Not the End Even if It Loses
Even if Amendment 62 is defeated on the Colorado ballot this year, Personhood USA, the extremist right-wing group behind the amendment, has vowed to bring it back year after year until it passes. Mississippi is set to vote on a similar ballot initiative in 2011 and anti-choice activists are at work preparing similar campaigns in Florida and Montana. Proponents of personhood have begun using race-baiting rhetoric to hide their real intentions, comparing the plight of the fetus to that of the Native American and the African American slave. One Colorado anti-abortion activist went so far as to claim using “the term fertilized egg, that’s the same thing as using the N word for an African American.”
No matter what messaging strategy they use, this much is clear: personhood initiatives are a thinly veiled attempt to control reproductive health decisions that should be between a woman, her family, and her doctor. They are an attempt to subvert religious freedom by inserting one particular religious viewpoint into the law. They are one of the most dangerous threats to women and their families in a generation and they must be stopped once and for all. If you live in Colorado, vote NO on Amendment 62 and tell your friends to do the same — it simply goes too far. If you’re not a Coloradoan, donate to the No On 62 campaign’s effort to defeat the amendment, sign up to make phone calls before the election, and look into what anti-choice initiatives are in the works in your state. No matter what your views on abortion, we must send the message loud and clear that women will not be made second-class citizens.
After all, is a woman who isn’t allowed to control her own body and life really a person? Or does that condition, by definition, make her the slave?