Abortion. It’s a word that divides our country even nearly 40 years after a Supreme Court decision that made it legal throughout the country. Today, instead of waning, the debate has reached a fever pitch with new “personhood” amendments and laws being pushed throughout the country.
The “personhood” concept is simple enough: the moment a human egg cell is conceived, it is a complete human life. If such a law or amendment is passed, it would effectively elevate any attempt to take that life as equivalent to murder.
An organization called “Personhood USA” has been spearheading the effort to strip away what they call the “Blackman Hole” in the decision paper written by Justice Harry Blackman for the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973:
“If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.”
Their goal is simple enough: establish personhood, and Roe v. Wade comes crashing down.
As with any issue that surrounds sexuality, reality is a little more complex than the folks at Personhood USA would have us believe. The Center for Reproductive Rights fought a personhood amendment in Mississippi that ultimately failed in the 2010 election. In an article posted the day of that election, The Atlantic’s Kay Steiger wrote:
But even if the initiative passes today, it’s unlikely that anything will change too quickly on the ground in Mississippi, where there is only one operating abortion clinic in the state. The Center for Reproductive Rights has pledged to file suit against the amendment immediately and expects the courts to issue an injunction against it because it “clearly violates the Constitution,” according to group President Nancy Northup.
Critics of the personhood movement say that such “definitions” of human life would not only allow abortion to be criminalized, but would also open the doors for criminal investigations of miscarriages, and a ban certain types of birth control. It would also potentially halt many forms of infertility treatment.
Personhood amendments have failed not only in otherwise ultra-conservative Mississippi, but also twice in Colorado — the latest by a 3 to 1 margin. These failures haven’t even slowed down the movement though. A new attempt in Colorado is underway.
Personhood USA got their first big victory this week in Virginia. The Virginia House passed HB1 to define personhood at the moment of conception — the first bill written and filed for the year (so much for a focus on jobs) — passed with a supermajority. Another bill requires any women that seek an abortion undergo an invasive ultrasound procedure. USA Today writes:
Del. Bob Marshall’s House Bill 1 on personhood at conception passed on a 66-32 vote. And on a 63-36 vote, the House passed a bill that requires women to have a “transvaginal ultrasound” before undergoing abortions.
Opponents said the bills were unprecedented intrusions into the prerogatives and decisions not just of pregnant women but of women trying to avoid conceiving.
The ultrasound procedure is particularly alarming. Again from USA Today:
The ultrasound legislation would constitute an unprecedented government mandate to insert vaginal ultrasonic probes into women as part of a state-ordered effort to dissuade them from terminating pregnancies, legislative opponents noted.
“We’re talking about inside a woman’s body,” Del. Charnielle Herring, a Democrat, said in an emotional floor speech. “This is the first time, if we pass this bill, that we will be dictating a medical procedure to a physician.”
The clear target in these efforts isn’t abortion. These far-right policy attempts are nothing more than an all out war on women and their rights to make reproductive decisions. Their goal isn’t just to make abortion illegal. They’re looking to turn women and their doctors into criminals.
How long should their prison sentence be? Ten years? Twenty? Fifty? How long should we put women and their doctors in jail for a decision that should be left to them, and them alone?
Let’s be clear. No one on the pro-choice side of the argument wants to “have as many abortions as possible.” It’s an outlandish argument that has absolutely no basis in fact. Nor are we “pro-abortion.” Our stance is simple: abortion should be safe and rare.
I’ll speak to a moment to those who are steadfastly pro-life and might even support the personhood movement.
What do you have to offer women and their unwanted babies once they’re forced to deliver? For girls and women who were kicked out of their families for being pregnant, do we add more people to welfare roles? What about counseling for the women who were forced to carry their rapist’s baby to to full term?
Are you going to adopt those babies? Oh, wait. There’s a lot of expense and red tape in adoption, you say. So a life isn’t worth red tape? Is that it?
It’s time for you to put your home where your politics are. To those who do adopt as many children as possible to save them from the abortion clinic, I commend you. But I fully expect every anti-abortion politician to have their names on adoption and foster lists all across the country.
Until then, you’re just full of it. You’ll make demands of women that you’re not willing to do yourself. You deserve nothing from me but contempt. There’s a word for that kind of behavior: hypocrite.
And do spare me the religious aspect of your argument. I’ve written of this before:
I heard one preacher say once, “You know why we have abortion in America? I’ll tell you why. It’s because a church said to a young, unwed mother, “you slut!” That’s why we have abortion in America.” I think he has a point.
The Church in America has become a master at judgment, and a novice at compassion. When we compound this to the reality that the early Roman Christians would roam the streets to look for exposed babies to raise as their own, the contrast becomes clear. What’s more, the emperor of the day even commented that “These Christians love our own more than we do.”
This was at a time when Christians were being killed in droves. Yet they still valued life so much that they would roam the streets at night to look for children or hide under bridges to wait as babies were discarded into the aqueducts.
Until we see religious anti-abortion groups actually begin to provide genuine alternatives, they really don’t have anything to offer. And it’s time that the rest of the country realize this. We don’t want your fingers in our face. We need your hands to help pull us out of crises. There’s nothing “pro-family” about “family” groups who only gripe about problems but never offer genuine, viable solutions.
In short, show me you care about the person before you try to push personhood.