“Personhood” the Priority at American Life League’s Training Conference


With the statewide campaigns to enact constitutional
“personhood” amendments the pro-life movement might be ready to abandon all
their previous narratives about faux-concern for women. The pro-life movement
clearly thinks they have hit on a winning narrative to convince the public to
ban abortion, and also birth control, by enacting state constitutional
amendments that grant full legal standing to hours-old fertilized eggs.

That was the message yesterday at the Washington Court hotel
during the American Life League’s Personhood Now training conference. Speaker
after speaker lined up to make their case about the evils of abortion and the
“necessity” of enacting 50 state constitutional amendments defining personhood
as beginning at fertilization, much like campaign that failed in Colorado in
2006.

Shaun Kenney, the executive director of the American Life
League said that personhood campaigns “reposition” the abortion discussion as a
means to move debate away from women’s rights to the rights of the embryos.

“For the last 37 years the pro-life movement has been
focused on Roe v. Wade,” Kenney said opening up the conference. “We’ve been
hammering away at the right to privacy. And what you get at the end of the day
is not that much.”

Instead of discussing the right to privacy, Kenney said that
the personhood campaigns assert the right to exist, which fundamentally is a
more sympathetic campaign for public debate. “This takes the discussion out of
the courthouse and back into the court of public opinion,” he explained.

While no personhood amendment has been passed yet, the
American Life League seems confident that this U.S. Supreme Court would affirm
its constitutionality if passed. Robert Muise, a lawyer with the Thomas More
Law Center, a conservative public interest law firm “dedicated to the defense
and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, " said that Justice Anthony
Kennedy was likely “with” them despite his vote in seminal case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern
Pennsylvania v. Casey
in 1992.

“His wife is pro-life and I’ve heard anecdotally that after Casey he spent some time on the couch,”
Muise said.

Both Kenney and Muise said that the “incremental” approach
to banning abortion, in the forms of enacting parental notification laws,
ultrasound requirements and the partial-birth abortion ban weren’t getting them
close enough to their goal of an outright ban. In fact Muise said that the
partial-birth abortion ban was mostly a symbolic move, rather than an effective
means at banning abortion.

“I’ve yet to see one conviction on the partial-birth
abortion ban,” Muise said. Instead Muise said it’s time to focus on real goal,
not just ending late-term or second-term abortion but all abortions.

A PowerPoint slide of Muise’s read:

Nearly 90 percent of all abortions
occur in the first 12 weeks, this is “key terrain.”

Left out of all the talk about banning abortion, there was
no discussion about what the passage of such a constitutional amendment would
actually mean to real live women.
There was lots of talk about fertilized eggs being “little children” but where
did these “little children” exist? Oh that’s right, in the body of the very
“person” the speakers weren’t even mentioning.

While all the rhetoric was dedicated towards “saving babies”
the concept of women’s personhood and autonomy was barely discussed or worse,
reduced women to body parts themselves. American Life League president Judie
Brown, in a taped message because she was in California, said there was no
justice for those living in Petri dishes or in their “mother’s fallopian
tubes.” We have to stop dehumanizing people “simply because of where they
live,” Brown said. So now embryos and fetuses just simply happen to live in
women’s bodies, as if it was merely a low-cost option for them rather than a nice
condo.

Muise was one of the few speakers to even brush up against
the idea of women’s autonomy. However he only mentioned women to claim that
there was no need for any exception for abortion for the life of the mother
because “in difficult pregnancies” physicians would work hard to save both
lives, and in cases where “one of them may not make it” the situation would
just be as it was in pre-Roe 1973, when doctors didn’t routinely let women die
in childbirth either. The idea that women’s health could be permanently
sacrificed for a pregnancy or that determination of how much risk for
continuing a pregnancy would be something a woman would want to decide for
herself, was not discussed by Muise.

Several African-American speakers also talked about “black
genocide.” There was discussion of campaigns of sterilization of “undesirables”
and goal in the post-Civil War era to keep African American populations from
growing. But none of the speakers mentioned that it is African American women
themselves who might wish to control their own reproductive schedule. African
American women’s autonomy was simply erased from the picture the speakers
painted.

Also not discussed, what would a personhood amendment mean
for contraception?

If such a personhood amendment passed then legally, all
hormonal contraception could potentially become outlawed. However “banning
birth control” was not a topic discussed by any speaker, except for Rev. Johnny
Hunter, who briefly said that birth control causes breast cancer, before also
mentioning that abortion does as well, a much touted but unproven claim.

While the speakers at the American Life League’s training
conference didn’t discuss “banning birth control” for activists, their table of
free pamphlets was all over that topic. With titles such as Answers to Your Questions different
pamphlets discussed Depo-Provera, NuvaRing, and Implanon.

What the pamphlets all shared in common was the idea that
hormonal contraception was the same as abortion.

In the “How does it work” section for Depo-Provera for
example, the pamphlet produced by the American Life League says:

It can thin the lining of the
uterus so that if the first two actions [preventing ovulation or preventing
sperm from reaching the ovum] fail and a new human being is created, the tiny
baby boy or girl will die before he or she can actually attach to the lining of
the uterus.

The same pamphlet warns:

Warning you may be told that
Depo-Provera cannot cause abortion, but that statement is based on the
incorrect notion that pregnancy begins when the baby implants in the lining of
the womb. This is dishonest and scientifically false. Don’t be misled.

The warning is repeated in all the pamphlets with the name
merely changed for each type of hormonal contraception.

Would the general public vote for a personhood amendment
that would outlaw not only abortion but also all hormonal birth control?
Probably not, but the pro-life movement is taking pains not to mention that
fact.

Still the pro-life movement thinks they have hit on a
winning idea. Keith Mason, cofounder of Personhood USA, a national organization
dedicated to enacting statewide personhood amends says, “We’re not in all 50
states yet, but we soon will be.”

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  • ahunt

    Sigh…lather, rinse, repeat.

  • danny

    Channelone.com is in many of the nations schools, public, christian and more. Channelone is owned by Alloyed Marketing and Media. Part of their social responsibility is to be partners with Planned Parenthood.
    What do you think they teach ten year old children?
    Abortion is OK? Do they teach the side effects of abortion?
    Do they tell the children that in three states that a woman that is about to have an abortion, has to be told that she is killing a human being? Are they telling the children on our tax dollar, the whole truth? Or just what they want the children to believe?
    Additional information at Obligation.org
    When did your life begin?

  • harry834

    "has to be told that she is killing a human being?"

    Why is there no desire among most pro-lifers to prosecute the woman for murder? What does she think is growing in her, an animal? Do pregnant women believe that anything other than a would-be human is growing in them?

  • amanda-marcotte

    I love that they really think they don’t do enough in denying women’s basic humanity

  • prochoiceferret

    What do you think they teach ten year old children?
    Abortion is OK?

    Well, duh, of course it’s okay. What would not be okay is teaching that they have control of their bodies, unless they’re a woman, and pregnant…

    Do they teach the side effects of abortion?

    Like what, not being pregnant anymore? I thought that much was obvious.

    Do they tell the children that in three states that a woman that is about to have an abortion, has to be told that she is killing a human being?

    The fact that lots of people, including state legislators, feel the need to stick their noses into a woman’s reproductive health care is another subject altogether. Should the curriculum include Personhood USA’s efforts to ban contraception, too?

    Are they telling the children on our tax dollar, the whole truth? Or just what they want the children to believe?

    You must have been really up in arms when they taught kids about Christopher Colombus….

  • princess-rot

    The pro-life movement clearly thinks they have hit on a winning narrative to convince the public to ban abortion, and also birth control, by enacting state constitutional amendments that grant full legal standing to hours-old fertilized eggs.

    This comes from a fear and hatred of others, not concern for “babies”. Everyone must live by our rules or the sky will fall down!!11eleven

  • crowepps

    When did your life begin?

    When the kids went away to college and I got a divorce.

  • ahunt

    SPEW!

     

    Afternoon coffee…through the nose. I will have revenge.

     

    Seriously…why this question irks me no end is the bizarre  assumption that I would know or care "when" Dad’s swimmer met Mom’s egg.

     

    Weird.

     

     

  • crowepps

    It can thin the lining of the uterus so that if the first two actions [preventing ovulation or preventing sperm from reaching the ovum] fail and a new human being is created, the tiny baby boy or girl will die before he or she can actually attach to the lining of the uterus.

    First, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that hormonal birth control ‘can thin the lining of the uterus’ but instead this is just a theory some anti-abortion activist came up with which no one has DISproved.

     

    Second, the sentimentalist craptrap included is just really, really annoying. A blastocyst, even at the stage of "yolk sac", is NOT a "tiny baby boy or girl". I am as awed by the miracle of creation as anyone, but the ‘people seed’ idea of the conceptus as tiny homunculus was discredited centuries ago and only the medieval-science right-wing is eager for its resurrection.

    that statement is based on the incorrect notion that pregnancy begins when the baby implants in the lining of the womb. This is dishonest and scientifically false.

    Having an egg successfully fertilized by an sperm does not make a woman pregnant.  Pregnancy of the woman is diagnosed by the presense of hCG, a hormone which comes from the placenta. There is a long series of steps which the fertilized egg must successfully complete including "invad[ing]" the endometrium and "break[ing] down larger endometrial veins and arteries" before the placenta exists and is producing hCG.

     

    There is, so far as I know, no scientific or medical term which describes a condition of a woman who ‘may have unattached zygote floating around inside uterus’. Unless the ‘pregnancy’ being described is exclusively that of the ZYGOTE then the pregnancy starts with implantation.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised, by the way, if they are indeed describing the pregnancy of the zygote, since their narrow focus pretty much excludes the woman entirely.

     

    http://cwx.prenhall.com/bookbind/pubbooks/martini10/chapter28/custom3/deluxe-content.html

     

    Using the words "tiny baby boy or girl" and in the same propaganda leaflet accusing OTHERS of dishonesty and promoting ‘scientifically false’ information definitely deserves a chutzpa award.

  • crowepps

    But see, what’s important isn’t when Mom ‘became pregnant’.  What is important to these egomaniacs is when THEY began THEIR pregnancy.  That’s the wellspring for those bizarre statements about ‘I know everthing I need to know about pregnancy and abortion because I was a zygote’ or ‘what if your mother had aborted you?’

     

    It is so obviously all about ME, ME, ME!!  You can hear it most clearly when they do those paeans of praise to Mom who ‘made her life really hard’ or ‘almost died’, or ‘died having me’, but of course it was entirely worth all her pain and suffering and even death because the whole purpose of the universe was to ensure the creation and continued existence of ME.

     

    I hate to break it to them, but they exist entirely by chance and if another sperm had won the race, they wouldn’t be here at all and nobody would miss them.

  • harry834

    they exist entirely by chance and if another sperm had won the race, they wouldn’t be here at all and nobody would miss them.

    They may feel that this statement devalues life, but they have to admit it is biological fact. It could just as esaily have been another sperm, another egg, or both and thus another person entirely. We wouldn’t have even known or cared of what we "lost". It is biological chances.

  • crowepps

    "All oppressors…attribute the frustration of their desires to the want of sufficient rigour.  Then they redouble the efforts of their impotent cruelty."  Edmund Burke