So-called "personhood initiatives", like the one we saw soundly defeated in the Colorado 2008 election, are trying to make a comeback in the 2010 election.
Personhood initiatives define a human life as beginning at the moment of fertilization. If passed, fertilized eggs would legally be considered people who are guaranteed constitutional rights, like you, I, or the woman with the fertilized egg in her uterus.
Anti-choicers hope that their egg-as-person laws would effectively ban abortion in the state in which the law was passed and subsequently challenge Roe v. Wade. Oh brother.
Not only that, but if passed, an egg-as-person law would attack women's rights to use certain forms of birth control, including the IUD and emergency contraception. Stem cell research and alternative reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization would be hugely impacted as well.
While the 2008 Colorado Personhood Initiative was defeated with 73% of voters saying "hell no", don't underestimate these things. They are back and the anti-choice forces behind them are as well-financed and fanatical as ever.
Egg-as-person amendments have been approved to be on the ballot this fall in Mississippi and Colorado. Efforts are still under way in California (the anti-choicers need 700,000 signatures by April 29th), and while an attempt in Nevada failed, Personhood NV (the initiative's backers) have appealed the decision to the NV Supreme Court, which is expected to make a decision by May 18.
Not only are we seeing egg-as-person initiatives pop up on ballots, but state legislators have introduced bills that would do the same thing. In North Dakota, the House actually passed an egg-as-person bill last spring and the state Senate luckily knocked it out.
Furthermore, on a global scale, fertilized eggs are being granted constitutional rights at some countries' national levels - case in point: the Dominican Republic - entirely banning abortion throughout the country.
The language they use - equating a fertilized egg with a person - gives us a big clue about what they are trying to do. While the anti-choicers may know that their initiatives don't stand a huge chance of passing in most states, they know that if you tell people an egg is a person and should enjoy constitutional rights, enough times, people will start to believe it. That messaging, just like any of the other commercial messages we hear day in and day out, will start to be viewed not as a crazy idea, but as the truth - or at least something to pay attention to. And we can't let it get to that. We must shut these attacks down before they ever see that day.
Personhood initiatives are the anti-choicers' newest tactic and we are just seeing the beginning of them unless we can mobilize our pro-choice majority to, well first, have a good chuckle at the ludicrousness of these things, but then, seriously, VOTE NO. And tell others to vote no. And tell them to tell others to vote no. And so forth...you get the idea. VOTE NO AND MOBILIZE OTHERS TO DO THE SAME.
Anti-choicers want this to be an expensive fight for us. They want us to use all of our time and resources fighting something that probably doesn't stand much of a chance at this point anyway. This fight does not have to be expensive. We're grassroots organizers and we have the majority on our side. On your campus, there is an extremely good chance that the majority of the students are pro-choice.
So, if you are in Colorado or Mississippi don't waste any time! Get the word out now! Set the stage for major defeat come fall.
And if you're anywhere else, start talking now. Let's make sure these so-called "personhood initiatives" don't stand a chance.
This article was featured in our April 2010 monthly Choices eZine. Sign up for our alerts to stay up-to-date with the latest feminist news and to receive the monthly eZine!