Until last week, I had never heard of an organization called Personhood USA. Then I read a post about it on Think Progress titled Anti-Abortion Groups Push To Outlaw Contraceptives By Redefining Personhood. According to the Think Progress piece, Personhood USA has been quite successful at pushing legislation in a number of states that would “redefine life as beginning at the moment of fertilization…”
Dr. Dan Grossman, an obstetrician/gynecologist at the University of California, San Francisco, said that the medical community has been in agreement that a pregnancy begins “once implantation occurs.” Only about a half of fertilized eggs, however, actually implant into a woman’s uterus and result in a pregnancy. The rest of the fertilized eggs never begin dividing, never implant, or spontaneously abort. In fact, some spontaneous abortions occur so early in a woman’s pregnancy that she may not even be aware that she is pregnant.
What has been the cause of great concern to some individuals and organizations—including NOW, ACLU, and Planned Parenthood—is that a growing number of lawmakers support the organization’s efforts to “legally define life as the moment a sperm meets an egg.”
Dr. Grossman, who also works for the reproductive rights group Ibis Reproductive Health, says that if Personhood USA achieves its goal, “it could threaten the use of a long list of commonly used contraceptives, including some birth control pills and the intrauterine device.” He added, “This redefinition really could end up reclassifying all of these effective and safe birth control methods as abortifacients, or agents that induce abortions.”
Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an attorney with the ACLU, claims that the personhood backers’ intention is the banning of some of the most commonly used forms of birth control—along with banning abortion.
Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, says that while “he doesn’t think his proposals would interfere with most forms of birth control, he doesn’t deny that some could.” He continued, “Certainly women, my wife included, would want to know if the pills they’re taking would kill a unique human individual. And I think there’s a lot of misinformation about that, or lack of information. And I think this is another benefit of what we’re doing: We’re raising awareness about these issues.”
Kolbi-Molinas says that there could be dire consequences if fertilized eggs are declared to be persons—and if women are legally separated from their pregnancies. The ACLU lawyer provided the example of ectopic pregnancies which implant outside a uterus and can be life-threatening for a woman. She said, “And so it is essential an ectopic pregnancy be terminated as soon as possible. But by giving all fertilized eggs legal rights under the law, that calls into question what kind of methods a doctor can actually use to save a woman’s life in a situation like this.”
According to Marie Diamond of Think Progress, if “personhood” laws are passed, they “could turn common forms of birth control into the legal equivalent of a homicide.” She claims that legislation supported by anti-abortion groups like Personhood USA is an attempt “to assert government control over women’s bodies.”
Diamond continued: “Contraceptives like the pill and IUDs not only act to prevent fertilization, but, if fertilization does occur, may prevent that fertilized egg from implanting in a woman’s uterus. Personhood USA considers this tantamount to abortion, and wants to make it a punishable offense for women to control their own fertility. Worse, because the proposed legislation could make any effort to terminate a pregnancy a criminal act, it could also bar doctors from saving the lives of women with ectopic pregnancies…”
According to Right Wing Watch: “Personhood legislation gives legal rights to zygotes, banning all abortion without exception along with procedures to treat problem pregnancies, certain forms of contraception, and even in-vitro fertilization.”
Personhood amendments were defeated in Colorado in 2008 and 2010. Recently, a Louisiana “personhood” bill was defeated by the State Legislature. Still, Personhood USA claims that bills the organization has introduced are gaining traction across the United States.
A Closing Note: Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, has been quoted as saying the following: “I think it’s important to note with the term fertilized egg, that’s the same thing as using the N word for an African American. Because it’s a dehumanizing term and it’s not based in science. The term would be a zygote, or an embryo, speaking of a unique individual.”
Personhood Bill Flounders In Louisiana (Right Wing Watch)
‘Personhood’ amendment before Mississippi court (Hattiesburg American)
Slowly but surely, American women are losing the right to choose (The Reid Report)