Redefining When Life Begins: A Post about Personhood USA and Legislative Bills That Could Make the Use of Some Contraceptives Illegal

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

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.”


Anti-Abortion Groups Push To Outlaw Contraceptives By Redefining Personhood (Think Progress)

Abortion Foes Push To Redefine Personhood (NPR)

Personhood Amendment Would Ban In-Vitro Fertilization, Physicians, Families Speak Out (RH Reality Check)

Personhood Bill Flounders In Louisiana (Right Wing Watch)

Mississippi Supreme Court hears arguments regarding personhood amendment (Ballot News)

Pro-choice forces seek to prevent referendum: Mississippi slated to vote on ‘personhood’ (Washington Times)

‘Personhood’ amendment before Mississippi court (Hattiesburg American)

 Slowly but surely, American women are losing the right to choose (The Reid Report)

Amendment 62 Debate: Term ‘Fertilized Egg’ Compared To The N-Word (KRDO)

Personhood USA

54 thoughts on “Redefining When Life Begins: A Post about Personhood USA and Legislative Bills That Could Make the Use of Some Contraceptives Illegal”

  1. Ms. EM,

    I viewed the Maddow clip early on before there were any comments and I want to review your links before commenting. You most likely remember our groups’ long discussions here previously regarding “when life begins” and this is perpetually an important subject with which to keep abreast (no pun intended).

  2. The US government severely delayed the approval of emergency contraception adopted by other nations across the globe, using regulatory obfuscation to deny women access to long-proven solutions to avoid unwanted or coerced pregnancy. No legitimate government regulatory authority has the power to strip citizens of such a basic technology.

    Nor does government have the right to force women to continue pregnancies by prohibiting reproductive services at one particular time or another; that is a kind of enslavement. Persons are born, not created by government decree.

    It is also immoral for government to compel medical practitioners to perform procedures that result in termination of pregnancies if they are not willing to do so voluntarily.

  3. FFLEO, I think Charlie L. is one of the best singers of love songs I have ever heard. Nobody does love songs any better than the Celts; the Irish, Welsh and Scots. Charlie exemplifies the best of all of that great tradition. Here are two other of his songs that make me misty-eyed. I have to go hug my own bonnie lassie when I hear these.

  4. Otteray Scribe,

    Mr. Landsborough’s rendition is exceptionally outstanding. Although I love an Irish colleen’s voice, I have at least 5 different CDs of ‘Maggie’ with different singers/songstresses, and I have heard countless others, I now think that Landsborough’s interpretation—which I had not previously heard—might be the best of all. Thanks, because otherwise I would have most likely never run across his version.

    That tune is enough to bring moistness to the diming eyes of a time-hardened old man…

  5. One of my favorite male Celtic singers is Charlie Landsborough. He is a remarkable vocalist from Wales. Here is his version.

  6. FFLEO, that is one of the greatest love songs of all time. And that is one of the better versions.

  7. Maggie,

    I got tae thinkin’ of a quicker remedy for your preggers CAPS LOCK problem that is relevant to this thread topic. Simply ABORT IT by Shift + Caps Lock—no pills or forceps required.

    I listen to this to get my mind back on a great thought related to a Maggie from a fine Irish tune ‘When You and I Were Young, Maggie’

  8. If these people are not stopped, this is only the beginning of their objectives. A natural progression–the anti-abortion arguments hinge on the assumption all unwanted pregnancies are caused by careless sex, i.e., immorality. Using contraceptives serves to encourage more immorality, so they must be outlawed. The root cause then is immorality, so any pregnancy resulting from immorality must then be the result of adultery/out of wedlock sex. Adultery must be stopped, and the only way to do this is to restore its criminality.

    The Taliban are rank amatuers compared to these nut-jobs.

  9. Abortion is a state issue and not a Federal one as there is nothing in the Constitution which suggests that the Federal government has any power over the matter. At a minimum, let the people be free to choose in their own state governments. At a maximum forbid federal interference. And NO, no one should be allowed to slaughter their unborn offspring even when it might be raised by a dirt-bag, for example, who sends photos of his genitals over the internet.

    We are a Federalist government, not a central one. But those who hate America (especially those in law schools and Washington D.C.) still insist on taking this power away from the people.

    These are Nazi types (Socialists of a nationalist bent). It was Hitler who insisted on an all powerful central government and it is Democrats who likewise subscribe to an all powerful all controlling central government viz a viz their twisted and demented meaning of supremacy clause.

    Nullify Now! Keep Molech at bay.

  10. Maggie Simi
    1, June 11, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    somewhere in west virginny there’s a couple of cousins studying for a paternity test.

  11. “Maggie Simi 1, June 11, 2011 at 6:38 pm


    Maggie, quick, better have your keyboard tested too because your alphabet appears to be growing large as if impregnated, i.e. PG!

  12. Kate envisions a real menstrual flow minstrel show…

    Sounds like an appropriate skit for Monty Python.

  13. Elaine,
    As usual, great post. This is a look into the future if the Right wins the Senate and keeps control of the House. Any woman who believes that contraception is a private matter should never vote for a Teapublican.

  14. I believe personhood starts with the development of the brain, which does not exist in the first 4 weeks, and really the first 6 weeks of gestation, and one could argue is not a functional organ in the first 8 weeks.

    On the other end of life, we define a person with no brain activity as “dead”, even if their body is alive, and rightly so. What makes a person a person is their brain activity; if there is no brain activity, the body is empty. A fertilized egg has no brain, a clump of cells the size of a wart has no brain. Those are not people. They can be described as “human,” but so can a tumor.

  15. OK, as of today, all menstruating females, at the first sign of menstrual bleeding, will report immediately to the nearest Menstruation Sequestration Center (MSC) for monitoring. During their period, the females will wear special cups to collect menstrual fluids, and will turn these fluids over three times a day to the onsite laboratory, where their contents will be searched microscopically for tiny human beings. If a tiny human being is found, an investigation will begin as to the cause of its rejection by the female’s uterus. If the female is found to be at fault, she shall be detained indefinitely without right of counsel; intensive interrogation techniques are hereby authorized to find the cause of the tiny human being’s failure to survive.

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