By Abe Sauer
The opinions expressed are his own.
The morning after Mississippi voters rejected a constitutional amendment to define a fertilized human egg as a person, Personhood USA was far from conceding defeat. Instead, after its second such defeat in as many years, the personhood movement was learning from its mistakes and planning a next attempt, which may come as early as 2012, and maybe in your state.
The amendment—which was heavily favored until it was not—would have made abortion, already roadblocked by process requirements and done by only one provider in the state, illegal. That was an intended consequence most Mississippians were behind. It was the amendment’s unknowns that scared off those who were unsure they were ready to go to Walgreens for “Personhood Tests.”
The measure collapsed because three constituencies got nervous: the medical community, Christians who had used in vitro fertilization (which may have been made illegal under the amendment), and, surprisingly, traditional allies of the anti-abortion movement, such as the Catholic Church, who were uncomfortable with the amendment’s vague language. Late polling found a 20-point drop in support from just a few weeks earlier.
But the anti-abortion organization vows it will turn to other states with its anchor baby-amendment.
Personhood’s USA’s cri de coeur is pulled from a comment made by Justice Harry Blackmun during Roe v. Wade. “If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed.” Of that decision, Personhood USA argues, “In 1973, the science of fetology was not able to prove, as it can now, that a living, fully human, and unique individual exists at the moment of fertilization…” This new science, Personhood USA insists, “could end this age-based discrimination.” Fans of dystopian sci-fi will certainly appreciate that the personhood movement is relying on scientific discoveries about fertilization to frame its anti-science legislation.