‘Egg-as-Person’ Crusade Drives Big Money to Anti-choice Groups


Wendy Norris is a freelance writer from Denver, Colorado working on special assignments for RH Reality Check, including investigative research into the anti-choice movement at the state level.  She is currently covering the "egg-as-person" movement for RH Reality Check.  Her most recent previous article on this issue for RHRC can be found here. Other posts on this issue  can be found by searching "personhood" and "egg-as-person" on our site.  Recent pieces include others by Wendy, analyses by Lynn Paltrow, and this cartoon.

Wendy’s work can also be read at the public policy blog, Unbossed.com.   

In just five short years, the primary movers and shakers in the absolutist anti-abortion/anti-choice movement seeking to promote the “personhood” of zygotes (the single cell that forms after a sperm fertilizes an egg) have amassed nearly $58 million in tax-deductible contributions for their cause.

Even the lead up to one of the worst economic periods in U.S. history has barely registered a blip in the group’s collective money-drawing power according to an examination of IRS and state campaign finance records conducted for RH Reality Check. Four out of the five groups are raising more cash than ever with sophisticated fundraising operations, flush investment portfolios, and robust revenue-generating activities.

This isn’t your grandma’s church bake sale by any stretch of the imagination.

American Life League

The fundraising champ among the five organizations profiled for this article is the American Life League (ALL), an ultra-conservative Catholic tax-exempt charity that describes itself as "supporting the social welfare of persons born and unborn." Its founder Judie Brown is better known as the "grandmother of the modern anti-choice movement" who popularized aggressive clinic blockades and sidewalk "counseling" tactics to harass health care providers and clinic patients beginning in the 1980s.

In 2007, the last year records are available, ALL raised a whopping $6 million — an impressive amount of money, without question, but still 17 percent less than its 2006 haul of $7.2 million, a decline mostly due to depreciation in the value of investment and asset sales that normally significantly pump up ALL’s annual income. Despite the lower total revenue, the amount of money brought in by donations alone has stayed relatively stable over the last five years ranging from $6.4 million in 2004 to $5.6 million in 2007.

To put it in context, ALL has raised a staggering $35 million since 2003. And it costs them just pennies on the dollar to raise those millions from direct mail appeals like one rather infamous letter that was addressed to "Dear Friend of God’s Preborn Babies."

The intermingling of hard line groups who share a common purpose to outlaw abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research puts ALL’s fundraising prowess to the test as it plows millions of dollars into attempts to challenge Roe v Wade in the states and into groups that share their agenda.
Former ALL legislative director Gualberto Garcia Jones, for example, is now heading the recently founded Colorado chapter of Personhood USA — the nonprofit, tax-exempt umbrella group driving religious conservatives latest attempt to pass a constitutional amendment in Colorado, while at the same time seeking constitutional amendments or laws to ban abortion and contraception in an estimated 16 states. Personhood USA, founded by long-time Operation Rescue activists Keith Mason and Cal Zastrow, was awarded charitable status in 2009 and has yet to file its financials. 
ALL was a major backer of Personhood USA’s Jul. 17-18 "Personhood Summit" held in Las Vegas, Nev., which was tagged on to "The Revolution," a week-long series of clinic protests by the radical anti-abortion splinter group Operation Save America run by Rev. Flip Benham.

Human Life International

Another fundraising powerhouse is Human Life International, a Virginia-based organization that espouses strict Catholic orthodoxy and an odd blend of anti-Semitic and freemason conspiracy theories, according to Chip Berlet, an investigative reporter with Political Research Associates.

While its conservative Catholic ally ALL has stumbled a bit in raising funds, HLI’s ability to raise money continues to grow each year, peaking at $4.1 million in 2007. Over a five-year period, Fr. Tom Euteneuer has raised $16 million for anti-abortion and anti-contraception mission work in 87 countries.

In one of its more controversial claims to fame, HLI notes on its Web site that in Tanzania — where 5.7 percent of adults are HIV-positive — its "teen chastity outreach programs brought to national attention the United Nation’s designs to force young people to use defective condoms; HLI’s detective work resulted in the destruction of over 10 million condoms." 

While not as publicly well known as other hard line activists, HLI signed on to the infamous full page newspaper ads attacking Focus on the Family founder James Dobson for not being anti-abortion enough. The ad caused such an uproar that one of its backers, Colorado Right to Life, lost its official state affiliate status.

In response to the Dobson ruckus, with the help of HLI, ALL, Benham’s Operation Rescue/Save America, conservative activist and perpetual political candidate Alan Keyes, Missionaries for the Preborn and other radicalized groups, Colorado Right to Life formed American Right to Life Action in 2007 to challenge the anti-abortion street cred of its former parent organization, National Right to Life.
After getting behind the losing 2008 Colorado personhood ballot measure (which HLI also publicly endorsed), American Right to Life Action has since petered out after bringing in about $40,000 in one year’s time. But by its Dec. 2008 post-election report to the IRS, the group organized as a federal tax law section 527 political committee claimed to have raised just 80 bucks while posting $2,000 in expenses for a loan repayment to a supporter.

Colorado Right to Life

Though its spin-off group, American Right to Life Action, seems to be on life support, Colorado Right to Life (CRTL) has raised nearly $1 million between 2004-2007 between its tax-exempt 501c4 social welfare organization and its charitable education fund.
While CRTL’s means may be modest in comparison to their peers, they’ve used their bankroll to position themselves as a major player in the "personhood" movement.

The group was a key force behind the first Colorado personhood constitutional amendment drive then-headed by political neophyte Kristi Burton, a 19-year-old student attending an online Biblical law school.
Now, veteran CRTL anti-abortion activist Leslie Hanks is co-sponsoring the 2010 Colorado personhood ballot measure with former ALL staffer and Personhood Colorado’s Garcia Jones. The two struck up a friendship in March 2005 while protesting at the Florida hospice where Terri Schiavo was resident, the brain-damaged woman at the center of a fierce right-to-die court battle that re-ignited the social conservative movement.
Hanks continues to mentor Garcia Jones in the ways of political gamesmanship. At an Aug. 5 hearing before the Colorado Title Board to determine the precise ballot language, Hanks leaped to the podium to help a befuddled Garcia Jones, a George Washington University law school grad, who was having trouble fielding questions from the Title Board members.

Life Legal Defense Foundation

Another veteran of the 2008 Colorado "personhood" fight is the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which describes its mission as "giving innocent and helpless human beings a trained and committed defense."
That and $5.2 million raised over five years can buy a lot of motions to tie up the courts over socially conservative activist causes. Like Hanks and Garcia Jones, LLDF was also involved in the Schiavo debacle and a supporter of the Colorado ballot measure.
More recently the legal team has been defending numerous cases of protesters harassing clinic staff and patients. In 2007, LLDF broke the $1.4 million mark in expenses with $554,000 paying for case costs and the remainder covering administrative outlays, more than double the acceptable ratio for nonprofit overhead.

Students for Life of America

The Arlington,Va.-based group, Students for Life of America, has seen exponential growth in its fundraising capacity and its reputation within the anti-abortion movement.
From a paltry $8,180 raised in 2004 it rocketed to total revenue of $573,000, all tax- deductible donations, just three years later. Likewise, the group is spending considerably more money organizing college campuses and hosting an annual conference.

Sounds remarkable but the numbers don’t add up.
An audit of the group’s 2007 IRS Form 990 expenditures statement is overstated by $316,220 according to the line items listed on the form. It’s impossible to validate the accuracy of the revenue figures since they are not itemized.

Despite the fuzzy math, SFLA has won the approval of the Who’s Who of the white- gloved anti-abortion movement. The Web site sports rolling endorsements by the likes of the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, U.S. Rep. and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul and Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life — folks who haven’t schlepped a book bag or roomed in a dorm in many a moon.

But the students do have a more contemporary role model in the personhood movement’s rising star Kristi Burton. SFLA endorsed the Colorado "personhood" ballot measure while Burton was featured at a "bonus" event hosted by ALL at the Jan. 2009 SFLA annual conference in Washington, D.C.
The road ahead
The cottage industry that has been borne of the "personhood" movement is certain to grow larger in years to come. Despite the crushing 3-to-1 electoral loss for Colorado’s amendment, ALL’s communication director Katie Walker made this startling admission to the Christian newswire OneNewsNow.com about the league’s future:

The idea of personhood in this movement is really the only thing, the only option left to us, and it’s one of the best options and one of the most beautiful concepts I’ve heard in a long time, she contends. We’re very excited about it.

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  • invalid-0

    just curious – do you know how much abortion groups raise? what about planned parenthood? these are industries that make money killing children. it’s a testimony to the passion people have about saving the unborn – it’s a priority, even during economically stressed times.

    maybe instead of insulting groups, you should ask yourself a few questions and get some alternate perspectives.

  • invalid-0

    You don’t think that in these “economically stressed” times, this money could be better spent feeding the hungry, or providing medical care for the mostly unarguably living? Or maybe it could be spent to help people who are losing their homes. Hmmmm…..

    Which “abortion groups” would that be? I’ve yet to see a group send out letters or stand with signs on the side of the road that say “YOU have to get an abortion! All of you!”
    I don’t know why the concept of pro-choice is so darned hard to figure out.

    So I think you’re a bit definitionally challenged as the fund raising amounts for those non existent groups would non existently amount to a big fat zero.

    But yeah, as has been said on the site numerous times and in numerous comments, PP is the primary healthcare provider for many many women, providing screenings for cervical cancer, breast cancer and STI’s, as well a contraceptive services. PP does NOT make huge captains of industry style profits off of its abortion services, but I’m just wasting my time repeating that.

  • invalid-0

    The personhood fights are a huge waste of money. Not even the Catholic Dioces would support it in Colorado, and it got defeated by a HUGE margin with almost 75% voting against this measure.

    Certainly compassionate people could spend their money in ways that would actually make a difference.

  • invalid-0

    You should also take a solid look at the Thomas More Society, http://www.thomasmoresociety.org/, a well-funded group that is the generator of the state “personhood” strategy. This organization is probably the key architect and promoter of the strategy. Here’s some background:
    http://www.rcrc.org/issues/MedRt_state_ballot_initiatives.cfm

  • invalid-0

    What makes a human, human? It’s certainly not DNA, since every living thing has DNA and shares many of the same genes. Folks with trisomy 21 do not even share the same number of chromosomes as “normal” humans. If our bodies are only vessels, what is important to be human? How do you consider a fertilized egg human? Thousands upon thousands of fertilized eggs are self-aborted everyday by non-implantation events! Are all these women’s bodies committing murder? Should we also allow ectopic pregnancies to run their course, killing the mother? I understand these people do not want to take chances on what is, and what isn’t human life. And I fully appreciate that argument. With that said, what makes us human isn’t what’s coded in our DNA, but what is seated in our bodies: our consciousness, our minds, and our souls. When that enters the bag of flesh and bones, is the real crux of the debate.

  • invalid-0

    What makes a human, human? It’s certainly not DNA, since every living thing has DNA and shares many of the same genes. Folks with trisomy 21 do not even share the same number of chromosomes as “normal” humans. If our bodies are only vessels, what is important to be human? How do you consider a fertilized egg human? Thousands upon thousands of fertilized eggs are self-aborted everyday by non-implantation events! Are all these women’s bodies committing murder? Should we also allow ectopic pregnancies to run their course, killing the mother? I understand these people do not want to take chances on what is, and what isn’t human life. And I fully appreciate that argument. With that said, what makes us human isn’t what’s coded in our DNA, but what is seated in our bodies: our consciousness, our minds, and our souls. When that enters the bag of flesh and bones, is the real crux of the debate.

  • invalid-0

    But when does a “human” (individual member of the species homo sapien) get a “consciousness, mind, or soul?” Do animals have consciousness, minds, or souls? Should humans and animals have the same rights? If not, why not? I think it’s difficult to argue a human embryo or fetus is not a human being unless one knows what a human being is in the first place.

  • invalid-0

    But when does a “human” (individual member of the species homo sapien) get a “consciousness, mind, or soul?”

    Some folks would say at conception. Some would say at one or two years. The compromise is to say that this nominally happens at birth, when the human is no longer physically tied to the mother. Much in the same way as some people become adults at 12, or 21, or 47, yet as far as the legal system is concerned this happens at 18.

    ALL et al. have forgotten what it is to live in a free society, with freedom of religion among the guaranteed liberties, and are laboring under the illusion that everyone can and should live under their metaphysical interpretation of the world.

  • wendy-norris

    Not surprisingly, it was tough narrowing down the growing list of groups directly behind the "personhood" movement — or those jumping on the bandwagon for their own fundraising purposes.

     

    In this first go-round, I wanted to highlight the incestuousness, if you will, between the primary activist groups. The synergy of personal connections and cross-promotion between them (and in-fighting among them) is fascinating.

     

    You’re right that the Thomas More Society is very involved behind the scenes. Thanks for the link to the Religious Coalition on Reproductive Choice’s very good article on the subject. I’d encourage everybody to read it.

     

    Stay tuned. There’s much more to come on this topic.

  • invalid-0

    Many forms of birth control do not prevent fertilization of the egg, but they either prevent implantation og the egg in the lining of the uterine wall or cause the endometrium to slough off even of the egg is implanted. So, are we to see all these forms of birth control attacked as killing preborn humans also? Of course that would also include the morning after pill. I am a mother and I also was a woman who became pregnant while unmarried. I chose to continue the pregnancy and the father and I got married, but I would have kept the baby anyway because I was old enough to take care of a child and I realized I wanted the baby very much, but not every girl or woman is able to do that. It was MY decision and no one else had a right to make that decision for me.

  • invalid-0

    Nobody has claimed (or can claim) that an egg is a person. A zygote/embryo/fetus, maybe, but not an egg. An “egg,” more properly called an ovum, is a gamete, a sex cell that is part of a fully developed human being. A zygote/embryo/fetus is a separate organism. At no time in the history of embryology has an “egg” (a single celled gamete) implanted itself onto the endometrium. Embryos, multicellular organisms that are more specifically called “morulas” at this phase, do it all the time. By all means, let’s have this conversation. But let’s start off on biologically correct footing. ;-)

  • invalid-0

    The Thomas More Society is not known for respectful attitudes towards women and their rights, despite being comprised of lawyers and lawyer wannabes.

  • invalid-0

    Industries making money killing children?

    First, it’s funny for an anti-choicer to try to demonize women’s health care organizations – including the non-profit Planned Parenthood – by calling them “money-making industries.” I thought anti-choicers were generally strong supporters of money-making industry. Indeed, they are also usually strongly against government regulation of industry. Not so in this case, it seems. A tad philosophically inconsistent, no? But philosophical consistency doesn’t stand a chance against their will to impose their religious views on others.

    Second, the phrase “killing children” begs the question and is merely another lame rhetorical attempt to cast as evil those who do not share their hyperventilating religious views.

    Neither an embryo nor a fetus is a person, any more than an egg is a chicken or an acorn is an oak. Incantatory inflammatory language does not make the crucial distinctions between those different entities magically disappear, even if while uttering it you stamp your feet, thump a bible, and pray as hard as you can.

  • invalid-0

    So if this attempt at the personification of zygotes is successful, what about the rights of the laboratory embryos? Are we going to see this argument used to allow scientists to “grow” their human experiments? Logically, if there are personhood laws protecting “natural” human embryos, they will be extended to cover “unnatural” embryos. What will be done about the IVF embryos which are currently cryogenically frozen? Will they have the right to a womb? Will this be done by force? What about experimental embryos? Will my grandchildren be attending school with children with numbers for names?

  • jodi-jacobson

    and we use the term "egg-as-person" purposefully to underscore the ridiculous nature of the claim that a fertilized egg is a "person" or can make a claim to "personhood."

    As we all know, language is critically important, and language has been used in innumerable ways to undermine women’s rights and autonomy. We have made an editorial decision to "call it as we see it," and to underscore the real implications of the "personhood" movement by underscoring the claim that a fertilized egg would be treated as a person.

    With best wishes, 

     

    Jodi Jacobson

  • http://BlogFloggers.com/av8r invalid-0

    To use a bit of your own language against you, Ms. Norris:


    Planned Parenthood receives a whopping $336.7 million dollars a year of your tax money — an impressive amount of money, without question. Planned Parenthood’s 2006-2007 Annual Report shows that PPFA had a total income of a staggering $1.02 billion. Of that total, an unimaginable $258.7 million came from donations; an unbelievable $366.9 million came from fees charged customers at its clinics; and an unconstitutional amount of $336.7 million came from the American taxpayer.

    Give me a break Wendy Norris. Go right ahead and stand on your first amendment rights, you can tell it how you see it… I’ll stand on mine. You, my friend, didn’t tell the whole story… we’ll tell the rest.

    After seeing the truth, the small millions raised by Pro-Life groups pale in comparison to the many hundreds of millions raised by Planned Parenthood, and the hundreds of millions that largely unwilling taxpayers are forced to pay… it really doesn’t look good for Planned Parenthood and their murderous minions.

  • invalid-0

    Fertilized eggs are people, by way of the sperm magic. Unfertilized eggs are not people, because then they are just part of the inconveniently ambulatory incubation devices known as “women”, amirite? Born human females are not people, because they have only a few short years before they are mature enough to graduate to the status of Potential Incubator, and must be raised according to this role.

    By the forced-birther’s logic, females are only worthy of “personhood” until they are born.

  • invalid-0

    Actually, these anti-choice groups are in agreement with every embryology textbook, which unanimously hold that a new human being begins at fertilization/conception. To say that the resulting embryonic human being isn’t human is an error (biologically speaking) on the part of pro-choicers. Or it is an imposition of their metaphysical worldview, which, as I read here, is not a good thing to impose on others. The human fetus isn’t human. Interesting.

    At least Peter Singer is more consistent in his definitions of what constitutes personhood, which he holds doesn’t begin until some sort of self-awareness sets in. He says it’s not only ok to kill the unborn child, but it’s even ok to kill her six weeks (or really, whenever you want to, as long as you convince yourself that she’s not a “person”) after birth. This is the philosophically consistent pro-choice position.

  • invalid-0

    Jodi, you admit adjacently that language is important so you intentionally distort the personhood movement’s position in order to make it look ridiculous. If language is important, why don’t you honestly grant them the distinction they are making, which is to call every fetal human being (per embryology’s definition as post-fertilization human offspring) a, well, human being, and every human being a person?

  • invalid-0

    I could hardly think of a better metaphor for “pro-choice”, the rotting intellectual husk of distorted feminism. You must be secretly a pro-lifer. Well done. Maybe, however, you could show us why you think that pro-lifers don’t think that women are persons… or why you think that women who choose to have children (like your mom did) are only “Incubators”. Both of these positions seem terribly misogynistic to me.

  • invalid-0

    I have to say that birth is a good point, both philosophically and in respect to abortion. After birth, it is possible to transfer the child’s dependence on you to another person, so that you are not burdened with it and the child still gets the necessary care. Before birth (or at least viability), this cannot be done–removing the child from being dependent on you will result in the child’s death. But no one should be forced to carry a burden they don’t want to. Before the child is capable of living outside the womb, the ‘pro-life’ contingent would extend right-to-life to including right-to-mooch-off-someone-else’s-body, regardless of if that someone else is willing to let that occur or not.

  • invalid-0

    Sigh. Here we go again. SteveLovesWomen… if you believe that “post-fertilized human offspring” are persons entitled to equal protection under the law…(and given the fact that odds are heavily against the PFHO ever taking a first breath)…how do you plan to extend those rights w/o simultaneously stripping all fertile women of precisely those same rights? Please be specific.

  • julie-watkins

    illegal, a "egg as person" is the same as "zygote as person". see here:
    http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Pregnancy_test 

    EPF can be detected in blood within 48 hours of fertilization. However, testing for EPF is expensive and time-consuming.

     

    If I’m understanding that correctly, there’s a time gap between when an egg is fertilized and when the zygote is detectible. So if EC prevents implantation (that is a controversal claim, but it could be made "truth" by legislation) … then it will be argued EC has the potential to kill a person (zygote) rather than only which preventing release of an egg. So before a woman could use EC she’d have to wait 5 days (IIRC, that’s how long sperm can live and fertilize an egg) after sex (where birth control failed) or after a rape so there’s no chance of killing a zygote person — but by that time EC won’t work.

    So, yes, "egg as person" is using language correctly, because it correctly shows the danger of such laws.

    Julie

  • invalid-0

    The claim that a fertilized ova is a human being is as ridiculous as the notion that an unfertilized one is.

  • invalid-0

    Mr. Bayer, can you provide a link to these figures, or did you pull them out of a random orifice?

  • invalid-0

    “all fertile women” should retain the right to have sex, and in doing so to choose to live with the consequences of that free decision. That’s what adults used to believe: we make choices, we live with the consequences. Adults, and even children, also used to know that sex is how babies are made. If the sexual act results in pregnancy (which is its biological “purpose”) then the pregnancy is a natural consequence of a freely chosen action, and both human beings (as defined by embryologists’ consensus) involved, mother and child, have the right to life. At that point, the right to kill the child does not exist. No one forced the woman to become pregnant, so we must respect both the freedom of her action and the natural consequences of her actions.

    Thanks for the fair question, now I have one for you: Does it trouble you that a healthy baby kicking in her mother’s belly at 8 months gestation is, to one mother, a person who is welcomed into life; and to another mother, something to be destroyed because it is unwanted? Put another way, are you troubled that your distinction between whether a human being is or is not a person (in this context) depends on whether or not that human being is wanted?

  • invalid-0

    tell the embryologists at Ivy League schools who disagree with you. Good luck with that. An unfertilized ovum, occurring in natural circumstances, which does not achieve fertilization in union with the spermatazoa, just naturally is disposed of. No one is calling this ovum a person. A blatocyst/zygote (etc…), occurring in natural circumstances and successfully nurtured in its natural environment, becomes a lawyer. Certainly the difference between ovum and zygote is meaningful to those who can make elementary distinctions.

  • invalid-0

    Does it trouble you that a healthy baby kicking in her mother’s belly at 8 months gestation is, to one mother, a person who is welcomed into life; and to another mother, something to be destroyed because it is unwanted?

    Yes, it would bother me. In what state are 3rd trimester abortions NOT regulated?

  • invalid-0

    Steve, are you suggesting that women lose their constitutional rights the moment an ovum is fertilized?

  • invalid-0

    No legitimate embryologist would claim that a blastocyst or a zygote is a person. It’s repulsive that in 2009 conservative Catholics would try to codify their more absurd beliefs and force all women to comply but, having read a good deal of Church history, not at all surprising. Welcome to the next Inquisition.

  • invalid-0

    But again, an “egg” is a single cell that is part of a human being. It does not and cannot implant. By the time implantation occurs, the organism formed from the sperm-egg fusion is multicellular (no longer even a zygote). Broadly, the zygote/blasctocyst/morula/embryo is simply referred to as an “embryo,” according to multiple medical dictionaries, (i.e. Stedman’s, Miller-Keane’s, HarperCollins, and Mosby’s to name a few). Language is important for rhetoric, but accurate language is important for honest debate. By all means hold the debate. But remember that references to “eggs” indicate ideological rhetoric trumping science. You may have made your editorial decision, but please keep in mind that science has decided otherwise.

  • invalid-0

    Well, that response certainly clarifies precisely what steve means when he claims to “love women”. Spare me such ‘love’.

    I read a very funny article the other day where some moronic asshole in the Catholic heirarchy was claiming that the sins of women who confessed tended more towards sins involving pride. Reading men like Paul and Steve helps me (although, sadly, not the Catholic hierarchy) understand why that might be. These men are just appalling and apparently have absolutely no clue that they are or why that might be.
    I can see why the Popes regard “the liberation of women” as a social ill as grave as unnecessary wars and extreme poverty.

  • invalid-0

    You missed the importance of one word in your sentence, Stevie. My mom chose to become pregnant, she intentionally chose to keep it. She didn’t have it foisted upon her by a law that presumes all sexually-active heterosexual women will be baby-murdering hedonists unless they have control of their bodily functions removed from them. As for my handle, it comes courtesy from another right-wing nut on another board a few years ago who suggested I was a “princess” (read: selfish) for disagreeing with him that birth control was for “irresponsible” people and that sex was totally natural, yo, provided that the people having “natural” sex were married, white, middle-class, heterosexual and religious. To which I responded that his opinion was a load of privileged rot, much like yours.

  • invalid-0

    How exactly are the government grants that PPFA receives unconstitutional? And do any of the anti-choice organizations provide medical services that would require a budget the size of PPFA’s? And did you even LOOK at the service breakdown in their report?
    3% of their provided services were related to abortion. The other 97%? Contraception, STI testing and treatment, cancer screening and prevention, and “other women’s health services,” including adoption referrals. They work tirelessly to prevent unwanted pregnancies, reducing the need for abortion. Furthermore, they provide services that increase health and well-being for people across the country. They treat STIs that could leave people sterile or kill them. They screen for cancer, allowing people to seek medical treatment for potentially fatal conditions. Yet you feel you have the right to demonize them and call them “murderous?”

  • invalid-0

    Stedman’s no longer also recognizes ‘zygote’ or ‘fertilized ovum’? When did they get deleted?

  • julie-watkins

    Embryologists are talking about a biological process. When it’s impossible to tell if a woman is carrying an egg or a zygote it’s ridiculous for a law to give rights to a zygote (which may or may not exist). Emergency Contraception is already being denied to women for "conscience" reasons. If "zygote egg as person" laws get passed EC will be more inaccessible. Also IUDs and birth control pills will be less accessible since some people believe they also cause early abortions.

  • paul-bradford

    The fundraising champ among the five organizations profiled for this article is the American Life League (ALL), an ultra-conservative Catholic tax-exempt charity that describes itself as "supporting the social welfare of persons born and unborn."

     

    ALL is an organization of Catholics, but it does not speak for the Catholic hierarchy.  The same can be said of us.  PLCC is an organization of Catholics, but we do not speak for the Catholic hierarchy.  It is important to note this.

     

    When the hierarchy, in the form of the Colorado Bishop’s Conference, spoke on the issue of the Colorado Personhood Bill it spoke against it (so did PLCC).  The hierarchy, in the form of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also gone on record as supporting Health Care Reform (albeit with guarantees that money not be spent on abortion).  ALL is opposed to Health Care Reform and is spreading a lot of fear and misinformation in an attempt to scuttle it.  PLCC, like the USCCB, supports Health Care Reform and urges Congress not to allocate government money for abortion.

     

    There is a difference between believing that human life begins at fertilization (or, to put it another way, believing that the life of a zygote is as valuable as anyone else’s life) on the one hand and asserting, on the other, that it would be wise to enshrine ‘personhood’ into law.  It’s one thing to attempt to shape attitudes about people’s responsibility to the unborn, it’s another to assess criminal penalties to those deemed insufficiently responsible.  ALL and PLCC are in agreement about the value of a zygote’s life.  We disagree on the question of criminalization.

     

    There are ways to promote the well-being of the unborn that don’t involve threatening anyone with legal penalties. 

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • paul-bradford

    Here’s a little Rorschach test for all of you who want to discuss the egg/fertilized egg-as-person question…  Please give me your reaction to this commercial for Plan B.  Frankly, I think the presentation is right on the money (even though my conclusions are different from those who would buy the product).

     

    Paul Bradford

    Pro-Life Catholics for Choice

  • therealistmom

    It is, indeed, created by two cells- but each of the gametes are haploid cells, having half the number of chromosomes of a regular cell found in the body of a <i>Homo sapiens</i>. When they merge, a new set of combined DNA is created- in a single diploid cell having the normal number of chromosomes. This makes it on the same par as a skin cell or nerve cell- it just has the POTENTIAL should it successfully divide to create a blastula/ embryo, and from there has the POTENTIAL to implant in the uterine wall, and more likely than not won’t make it to that point. Should it manage despite the odds to implant and begin the process of creating a placenta, embryonic sac, and begin differentiating, it has the POTENTIAL to develop into a fully-formed member of the species through a parasitic relationship with the pregnant woman. (Parasitic simply means a relationship where one organism lives off another, without a mutual benefit. A fetus, as part of a wanted pregnancy or no, fits this description. It removes nutrients from the woman, excretes waste that must be dealt with, pushes on major organs, and can cause major health issues).

    <p>

     So what you’re pushing is because a certain haploid cell becomes diploid like every other normal cell in the human body (aside from gametes), it suddenly becomes a complete entity unto itself. That falls directly into "Sperm magic" thinking. An ovum isn’t a person, but sperm DNA makes it into a zygote diploid cell and now it is. It’s reminscent of the old theories of the homunculus within the sperm cells, men providing a whole perfect little person to be incubated by the woman.

    <p>

    If the theory is because it now has unique DNA, cancer cells are diploids with unique DNA, yet nobody screams that tumors are people. No, a tumor doesn’t have the slim POTENTIAL of becoming a complete and seperate human being, but the awareness, feeling, and consciousness exhibited by a cancer cell is identical to that of a zygote.

  • julie-watkins

    It’s showing an egg being (instantly) fertalized, but the science is that Plan B. Looks like dumbing-down to me. Sigh. http://www.lifeethics.org/www.lifeethics.org/2006/09/review-plan-b-how-it-works-and-doesnt.html

    The best evidence is that Plan B works to prevent ovulation or to prevent the oocyte (the "egg") from being released from the ovary and passing to the fallopian tube. This is why the pill is best (and only?) functional before ovulation. In nature, the egg only lives about 24 hours and sperm can live from 2 to 5 days. If the egg is not released, is over 24 hours old, if the sperm cannot get to the egg or if they are dead or incapacitated, there can be no fertilization.

    If I had scripted that advertisement, it wouldn’t show fertilization and a voice over would say: "He’s done, but his sperm will live for 5 days. If you have an egg waiting to be released when his sperm are still active you’re likely to become pregnant. Plan B. When accidents happen, keep your eggs at home."

  • larry-j
  • With all the flummery you folks spew at us about the disputes over which definition of ‘pregnancy‘ and ‘contraception‘ to use…
  • With all your sanctimony over the preference you give to one philosophical view of the meaning of ‘personhood‘ and ‘murder‘ over another…
  • With your hidebound insistence that an unborn human life cannot correctly be classified as a ‘baby‘, ‘child‘ or even ‘human being‘…
  • it is remarkable that you can continue time and again to make fools of yourself by making stupid errors with your terminology. (That they are stupid errors is the charitable interpretation- since the alternative is that you are willfully deceiptful.)

    A human egg is an ovum. There is no ‘ovum-as-person’ movement.
    The pro-life personhood campaigns would give legal status to fetuses, embryos, and even zygotes- but not ova.

    If you want ANY credibility on issues of word use, then you need to have  standards.

    • ovum: female reproductive cell or gamete of animals; egg.
    • zygote: the diploid cell resulting from the union of a haploid spermatozoon and ovum (including the organism that develops from that cell)
    • embryo: prefetal product of conception from implantation through the eighth week of development.


    note: I know am well aware that a zygote is formed when an egg is fertilized.  Charcoal is formed when wood is heated without oxygen.   Charcoal is not wood, and zygotes aren’t eggs.

  • larry-j

    Steve- I hadn’t read through all the comments until after I posted mine.  I see you made the same point as well.  What they’re missing in their apocalyptic predictions about the result of the personhood measures is that if ova had protection (rather than zygotes), despite the fact that they are only gametes, then sperm would have that protection too.  Obviously, no one would ever try to give rights to a sperm cell (except perhaps Chicago politicians looking for more names to put on the voter registry), so there is no basis to claim that anyone is arguing that rights should be given to eggs either.

  • larry-j

    and we use the term "baby killing" purposefully to underscore the
    ridiculous nature of the claim that there can be "right to choose" to kill an unborn baby.

    As we all know, language is critically important, and language has
    been used in innumerable ways to undermine the  rights and autonomy of those (like the unborn at present and women and non-whites in the past) who have no political representation.
    We have made a collective  decision to "call it as we see it," and to
    underscore the real implications of the "choice" movement by
    underscoring the claim that a "right to choose" legalizes murder.

     

    You’re okay with all that, aren’t you Jodi Jacobson?

     

    I assume that you think that the above is acceptable language, and not just propoganda, or else you wouldn’t be using the same tactic.

     

    With best wishes, 

    Larry.

     

     

    Zygotes are fertilized eggs…..

    and we use the term "egg-as-person" purposefully to underscore the
    ridiculous nature of the claim that a fertilized egg is a "person" or
    can make a claim to "personhood."

    As we all know, language is critically important, and language has
    been used in innumerable ways to undermine women’s rights and autonomy.
    We have made an editorial decision to "call it as we see it," and to
    underscore the real implications of the "personhood" movement by
    underscoring the claim that a fertilized egg would be treated as a
    person.

    With best wishes, 

     

    Jodi Jacobson

    Submitted August 17, 2009 – 10:06pm.

  • larry-j

     

    There is a difference between believing that human life begins at fertilization
    (or, to put it another way, believing that the life of a zygote is as
    valuable as anyone else’s life) on the one hand and asserting, on the
    other, that it would be wise to enshrine ‘personhood’ into law.  It’s
    one thing to attempt to shape attitudes about people’s responsibility
    to the unborn, it’s another to assess criminal penalties to those
    deemed insufficiently responsible.  ALL and PLCC are in agreement about
    the value of a zygote’s life.  We disagree on the question of
    criminalization.

     

     

    There are ways to promote the well-being of the unborn that don’t involve threatening anyone with legal penalties.

     

     

    What you’ve said is well and good, but criminalization is essential to granting legal protection.  If violating someone’s rights is not a crime, then they have no legal rights.  The pro-life movement has as its explicit goal giving legal protection to the unborn.  Abolotionists needed criminalization to give legal rights to those who had been slaves.  Rhetoric and attitude is helpful, but it is not the goal.

     

    ‘PLCC’ is an oxymoron.

  • steveloveswomen

    are legal in all 50 states. The recently murdered George Tiller was a practitioner of this barbarity and he enjoyed the unqualified support of every pro-choice group. He openly admitted that he would perform third trimester abortions on women whose lives and babies were not in danger, because it was their "right".

     

    Barack Obama even refused to sign legislation criminalizing the intentional killing of babies that survived a late-term abortion procedure, because he thought (without basis, it turned out, as even Barbara Boxer signed similar legislation in Congress) that signing the legislation may impinge on a woman’s "right to choose" to kill her unborn child.

     

    Can you, ahunt, point to one case where someone has been tried for performing a third-trimester abortion?

  • steveloveswomen

    Of course they retain every right that they had before having sex and achieving pregnancy. And of course, rights come with responsibilities, including the responsibility to respect the rights of others. After fertilization, there are two human beings involved, the woman and the girl or boy she is carrying. That most posters here angrily deny this biological fact is telling, but anger is not a premise in an argument. The blastocyst is a human being, per embryological definition, even if embryologists have no desire to get dragged into the metaphysical question of when this human being acquires rights. The personhood movement is simply trying to ensure that all human beings have the rights which this formerly sane country used to at least desire to grant to all human beings – including, per the Declaration of Independence, the right to life.

  • steveloveswomen

    You, Anonymous, changed what I said. Embryologists are divided on the "personhood" of the human being in his or her zygotic stage of development, but they are not divided *at all* about whether or not the zygote is a human being. I would draw pictures for you about the distinction, but I sense that your problem is the cloudy thinking that comes with hatred, not necessarily a lack of innate intelligence. So if you’re going to call me a liar, at least use what I actually said.

  • steveloveswomen

    Embryologists are talking about a biological process.

    Yes, they are.

     

    Emergency Contraception is already being denied to women for "conscience" reasons.

    And then they go down the street to get the exact same drug – they are inconvenienced, not stopped. There is no right to convenience. It’s troubling to me, though, that you use scare quotes around the word ‘conscience’. So it’s ok to impose your will on others, but not ok for them to do it to you? It seems that most sane people, even if they disagree, at least respect someone’s right to not participate in something that they find immoral. To force them to act against their will with the power of the state (which a law would do) is fascism. Is this a fascist site?

  • steveloveswomen

    Not a bad description of the processes involved, but again you’re missing the gist of the claim, which Larry correctly points out. No one is claiming that cancer or skin cells are persons, and to use such a claim is disingenuous. To knock down strawman arguments is not considered respectable discourse among the informed, but I’ll assume that you are not being dishonest, but are missing the distinction. Again.

     

    Here it is.

     

    The zygote only requires the naturally-occurring "nurturing" environment that the mother provides in order to become a kindergartener, ballerina, attorney, pro-choice activist… whatever she will become as a person. She already is a human being, per scientific definition. Her sex and genetics have already been determined.

     

    No one can make these claims about a skin cell or a cancer cell, or, for that matter, a sperm (in the latter case, for the reasons you provided in your fair reply). So nobody does, except pro-choicers who can’t make or follow basic distinctions.

     

    Intentionally killing a human being because she has failed to acheive her POTENTIAL is not, on the pro-life view, ethical or moral. Killing her for her failure to get straight-A’s, to make the basketball team, to be sufficiently "wanted" as an embryo, is wrong. These are all stages of potentiality, and none provide moral reason to kill her. She is not, at any of these stages, a POTENTIAL human being, she is an actual human being who, like you, has passed through various stages of development.

     

    Show me the cancer cell that has, from its genesis, become a five-year-old, and I’ll admit that you have a point. Otherwise, I can’t.

  • jayn

    "And then they go down the street to get the exact same drug – they are inconvenienced, not stopped." 

     

    You underestimate what the level of inconvenice can be.  I used to live in the middle of nowhere–getting ED would have been minimum an hour round trip by car.  Had the first place decided to deny me, it would be at least another half hour added, assuming I had time to make the extra trip, and there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t be denied there as well.  And all of this is assuming I had access to a car, which may or may not have been the case, as there was no public transportation.

     

    We aren’t all fortunate enough to live in a large city where getting to the next pharmacy means walking a couple extra blocks.

  • ahunt

    One more time, Steve…and I am so tired of saying this….because it has never failed to end the
    conversation, and send anti-choicers into intellectually dishonest
    silence.
    IF the blastocyst/zygote/embryo/ fetus is a person, there is virtually
    no realm of human endeavor that women of childbearing age cannot be
    excluded from, no activity that women may not be restricted from, no
    aspect of a woman’s life that may not be circumscribed by law.
    IF the b/z/e/f is a person entitled to equal rights under the law, then
    equality under the law applies to men, postmenopausal/infertile women,
    and blastocysts, embryos, zygotes and fetuses but NOT TO FERTILE WOMEN
    of childbearing age.

  • ahunt

    <i>He openly admitted that he would perform third trimester abortions
    on women whose lives and babies were not in danger, because it was
    their "right".</i> Prove it.

     

    <i>Third trimester abortions are legal in all 50 states</i> Under what circumstances? Be specific.

     

  • julie-watkins

    With emergency contraception, any
    delay increases the risk that an egg will be released. For other less time critical but "objectionable" prescriptions, problems can still be more than a minor incontinence.

    Steve: I used quotes around "conscience" because someone who is a health care provider shouldn’t use bad "science" to find an objection to emergency contraception or
    birth control. EC prevents release of an egg, not implantation — or studies would find it to be effective more days after the calculated average ovulation
    time. Objections to hormonal birth control pills are dubious.

    Further, it isn’t the pharmacist’s job anyway. The job of the pharmacist is to fill the doctor’s prescriptions and check with the doctor if there appears to be a possibility of harmful incompatibilities with other current prescriptions and let the doctor decide how to alter
    the prescription if appropriate. It isn’t the pharmacist’s job to veto the doctor’s perscription. That’s why I call bs on the "conscience" objection. If the pharmacist won’t do the job the "pharmacist" should get another job. I do respect someone’s right to not participate in something
    that they find immoral — but the pharmacist wasn’t drafted into that job.

  • crowepps

    <blockquote>Many forms of birth control do not prevent fertilization of the egg, but they either prevent implantation og the egg in the lining of the uterine wall or cause the endometrium to slough off even of the egg is implanted. … Of course that would also include the morning after pill. <blockquote>

    The morning after pill does NOT prevent implantation or cause the endometrium to slough off.  It does not prevent implantation of a zygote or disturb an established pregnancy.  That’s why it has a 15% failure rate.

  • crowepps

    After seeing the truth, the small millions raised by Pro-Life groups pale in comparison to the many hundreds of millions raised by Planned Parenthood

    PPFA actually provides HEALTH SERVICES from the money which they raise and Pro-Life groups provide mostly noise and vitriol.

  • crowepps

    The zygote only requires the naturally-occurring “nurturing” environment that the mother provides

    And the use of her lungs, digestive system, kidneys, liver, heart — which she should not have to provide unless she wishes to do so. Your argument could just easily be used to legislate involuntary blood and organ donation since “the patient only requires the naturally occurring” body of another and apparently it’s every citizens duty to give up bodily autonomy and health for the benefit of strangers.

  • steveloveswomen

    IF the blastocyst/zygote/embryo/ fetus is a person, there is virtually
    no realm of human endeavor that women of childbearing age cannot be
    excluded from, no activity that women may not be restricted from, no
    aspect of a woman’s life that may not be circumscribed by law.

     The reason this statement "ends the conversation" is because it is so bizarrely untrue as to leave one wondering if one is debating with a sane person. And, for what it’s worth, the remainder of the post does nothing more than commit the logical error of assuming the (in this case, clearly faulty) conclusion.

     

    Please list for me all of the "realms of human endeavor" that are denied pregnant women BY LAW. My pregnant wife continues to work (as long as she feels like she can and wants to), to drive, to go wherever she likes… oh, what’s the point. A person who would think that the sentence quoted above has any merit has clearly departed from the ‘realm’ of reasonable discourse.

     

    Ahunt, your counterfactual statement has, as you claimed it would, again ended the conversation. Not because it makes any sense, but because your interlocutor has (again) realized that he is not dealing with a serious person capable of fair and honest exchange.

     

    I wish you the best and hope that you can at some point confront the pain that drives you to deny the truth of the harm that abortion does to women. 

  • steveloveswomen

    I’m comfortable with my position that (even extreme) inconvenience does not trump another’s freedom of conscience. And I’m comfortable that any reasonable person would agree.

     

    But you make an interesting point, Julie, when you point out that no one is forcing anyone to be a pharmacist. This is usually the extreme capitalist position in different contexts when someone says that it unfair that Person X (soldier, nurse, teacher, government employees, whomever) is fired for not following orders because of their conscience. They had a choice didn’t they (like the mother did in getting pregnant, but that’s another story)? The counterargument is usually made that it is usually unfair to expect someone who has invested years and a fortune to become a professional in an area to be expected to leave that profession and restart their lives. 

     

    So the question is, Julie, do you believe that across the board, or do you think that only pro-life pharmacists should be forced out of their chosen profession because of their moral beliefs? I personally think that this is poor reasoning, but I’m not an extreme capitalist, so we may have different values there.

  • julie-watkins

    I would like a pro-life pharmacist should be forced out of his/her chosen profession if she *started* training with the attitude "I won’t cooperate with birth control abortion" — there wouldn’t be a question of "number of years invested" in that case. I can’t think of a plausible way of regulating that. However, if I ever encounted a pharmacist who admitted to that I would still complain … and look to see if there wasn’t something else I should report to the county health board. As for teachers and soldiers, it would depend on what the "conscience" objection was.

    You didn’t respond to my major point, so I’ll repeat: The job of the pharmacist is to fill the doctor’s prescriptions and check with the doctor if there appears to be a possibility of harmful incompatibilities with other current prescriptions and let the doctor decide how to alter the prescription if appropriate. It isn’t the pharmacist’s job to veto the doctor’s perscription. Or, do you disagree?

  • ahunt

    I train horses for a living, Steve. (Everyone else just scroll) One more time…what is the distinction between engaging in such high risk employment carrying a blastocyst/embryo/fetus in my uterus, and carrying a month old baby…if in fact thebef is entitled to equal protection under the law?

  • crowepps

    This is usually the extreme capitalist position in different contexts when someone says that it unfair that Person X (soldier, nurse, teacher, government employees, whomever) is fired for not following orders because of their conscience. … it is usually unfair to expect someone who has invested years and a fortune to become a professional in an area to be expected to leave that profession and restart their lives. 

     

    I actually typed a transcript of an arrest where a guy who had a lot of time and money ‘invested’ in equipment to illegally grow and distribute pot made this argument to the cop who was arresting him.  "You’re putting me out of business, man.  How am I supposed to make a living?"

     

    There is no constitutional right to make money.  If there were, doctors whose malpractice kills patients would have a ‘right’ to stay in the profession and accountants who embezzle money would have a ‘right’ to stay in the profession.  Pharmacists who obstruct patients from receiving properly prescribed medications because of their ASSUMPTIONS about the patient’s private lives and motives are committing malpractice.

  • larry-j

    I know this may be a private spat, but when did it become illegal to train horses while carrying a baby?  It might be irresponsible, and it would definitely be impractical, but… illegal?

  • therealistmom

    If zygote-as-person laws pass, and we start defining fetuses as ‘persons’, any activity that is potentially dangerous would in effect become illegal for women of childbearing age. If the zygote is now a "person", then being in a career or participating in anything that might cause a miscarriage would now be considered as murder or manslaughter. If I get thrown from a horse and miscarry, it could be seen as involuntary manslaughter- ie contributing to the death of a "person". And because a woman doesn’t know much of the time if there is a zygote present, she would have to NEVER be involved in any potentially harmful activity on the off chance there was one. Any miscarriage could be investigated as a potential "murder" or "manslaughter". Is this where we really want to go?

  • therealistmom

    A seed is produced when the gametes of two plants combine DNA. It has the POTENTIAL to develop into a new organism if it ends up in the specific nurturing environment. Most will not.

    A zygote is equivilent to an acorn in that aspect. It is the combined DNA of egg and sperm, a single cell that has the POTENTIAL to develop into a unique organism. Raking up acorns off the forest floor wouldn’t be the same as burning down a forest.

  • larry-j

    If a mother of a one year old baby trains horses while carrying around the child (ahunt’s analogy spoke of carrying a child around- not ‘carrying a child’ in the sense of being pregnant), then she breaks no laws (although she is probably not very good at her job).  The same legal principle will apply when we get prenates recognized as legal persons.  You needn’t fret. The concern over ‘womb police’ is just hysterical (pun intended).

  • ahunt

    <i>then she breaks no laws</i>

     Irrelevant. I can guarantee you that if I took a header of a sassy mare while carrying a child in say…a belly pack, resulting in death or injury to that child…I would be brought up on charges. You know this too, Larry. So what is the difference if the injury is done to the BEF, if in fact, the BEF is a person entitled to equal protection under the law?

  • therealistmom

    …and we can trust all the men like him! They know way more than us lil wimmins!

    /snark

  • ahunt

    RM…it is as if the thought processes short circuit when the complexity of "fertilized ova as person" is presented. Either one buries one’s head in the sand, or one acknowledges that one doesn’t REALLY believe that legal personhood under the Constitution exists upon fertilization.

  • colleen

    it is as if the thought processes short circuit when the complexity of “fertilized ova as person” is presented.

    That’s because, at bottom, it is a religious belief. Saying that a zygote is a ‘person’ is like insisting that a sheaf of blueprints is a ‘building’.

    They’re just as absurd as the pseudo-scientists of the Discovery Institute but I must admit that I find these men, their abusive beliefs and obvious contempt for women deeply offensive. To speak of our bodies as “nurturing soil” and pretend to basic decency much less some sort of superior morality is grotesque.

    I recall that John Kennedy was elected after he promised to not force his Catholicism on the rest of us. How unfortunate that in 2009 The Church, having squandered it’s moral authority, has reverted to it’s traditional arrogance.

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • therealistmom

    that happens when you find an anti-choicer who insists abortion is murder and should be illegal- but when you ask what punishment the woman should recieve they say, "I don’t want to send them to jail!" Well, if it is truly murder, you should logically think a life sentence is appropriate. So either there is a huge functional logic flaw in their thinking, or they KNOW they don’t believe that a B/E/F is equivilent to a born human and are outright lying. I’m honestly not sure which is worse.

  • emma

    No one’s saying a human zygote isn’t human. My finger is a human finger, but it isn’t a person. Nor is a zygote. Did you misunderstand our position, or were you being ‘deceiptful’? If you’re going to get all sanctimonious about language usage, it would behove you to get a grip on the basic semantic distinctions relevant to this discussion.

  • pilar608

    I’m not Julie, but you get to have my $.02 anyway.

     

    I’m all for truth in advertising.  If a pharmacist refuses to sell EC or monthly contraceptives, s/he should be required to either 1)  have on the premises at all times a pharmacist who will sell those items or 2) a large sign out front stating that this store doesn’t sell those items, so that women don’t have to waste as much time going in, waiting in line, etc.  My personal preference is for Option 1. 

     

    BTW, I’d be curious.  If a pharmacists were a Scientologist and refused to fill prescriptions for those with mental illnesses, are you okay with that?  Would you still be okay if those pharmacists tore up the prescriptions?  Gave a loud, humiliating lecture to the patient stating how evil they are for wanting to get a prescription?  After all, they’re only following their consciences.