‘Egg-as-Person’ Makes Colorado Ballot, While Prospects in Florida and Nevada Remain Unclear


The beat goes on for a band of absolutist anti-choice advocates who are pushing to legally define “personhood” as beginning at the moment of conception.

The ballot measure is the brainchild of ultra-conservative Christians and is intended to confer civil rights protections to “zygote Americans” in state constitutions. Despite its seemingly innocuous name, their true aim is to ban abortion, contraception, in-vitro fertilizations and embryonic stem cell research over narrow fundamentalist Biblical interpretations of reproduction. The personhood concept has been panned by legal scholars and a majority of anti-choice advocates as an amateurish misreading of the constitutional law provisions in Roe v Wade and other settled case law on abortion.

Thus far, the group claims it is working to put the question to voters in 40 states. Here’s a round up of their most recent efforts.

Colorado makes ballot

A second attempt to define a “person” from the moment of conception has squeaked onto the 2010 Colorado ballot.

Colorado Secretary of State spokesman Rich Coolidge said late Friday that Colorado Personhood had exceeded the petition signature requirement after a raucous month of getting rejected on its first batch and a mad scramble to collect more names that ended with a lawsuit threat.

The first batch of petitions submitted Feb. 12 failed to make the threshold of 76,047 valid signatures after state election officials rejected 15,700 names over lapsed voter registrations and duplicate signatures. A 15-day cure period allowed the anti-choice group to re-circulate its petitions to add to the previously accepted ones.

All told, elections officials accepted 95,884 signatures from both circulation efforts. Coolidge said in the second round nearly 12,000 signatures were thrown out as duplicates, unregistered voters or incorrectly certified by notaries. A 2009 state law requires notaries to verify the petition circulators’ “personhood” through a government-issued identification card. State lawmakers strengthened several laws guiding citizen initiatives following a media firestorm over 2008 ballot proponents duping voters into signing petitions by lying about the measures’ intentions.

Personhood Colorado employed notaries who certified the petitions through “personal knowledge” — an antiquated approval no longer accepted by state elections officials. Coolidge also noted that some circulators were signing their own petitions multiple times.

Personhood Colorado complained that it was not notified that the law had changed. Coolidge responded that the rule was clearly communicated during petition circulator trainings and on its Web site. Keith Mason, co-founder of Personhood USA, said last week the group is mulling a lawsuit against the Colorado Secretary of State over the notary flap.

A nearly identical citizen initiative in 2008, which Mason helped lead as the petition director, was trounced 73-27 at the polls. This latest attempt will go before Colorado voters as Amendment 62 on Nov. 3. Pro-choice advocates have vowed to vigorously oppose it.

See you in court

Vague language, hidden intent and broad ramifications are some of the legal arguments being made by opponents of the proposed Nevada personhood measure.

A successful Jan. lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union argued the ballot language did not use the words “abortion,” “birth control” or “fertilization” in an attempt to confuse voters about its purpose, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

District Judge Todd Russell agreed, ruling that the measure contained more than a single subject in violation of state law knocking it off the state ballot.

Personhood Nevada appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court contending there is no requirement to be more specific about the consequences of the proposed law.

The court agreed to expedite the case and will open with oral arguments on April 6 in Las Vegas.

As is the case in other states, anti-choice groups are publicly opposing the Nevada measure.

Don Nelson of Nevada Life griped, “This bill has no chance of ending abortion in America or in Nevada. And the effect of this could add more precedence to supporting Roe v. Wade.”

Nelson was joined by hard-liners the Nevada Eagle Forum, Nevada Families and Nevada Independent American Party, a political group formally affiliated with the Christian paleo-conservative Constitution Party.

Should the personhood activists prevail in the Supreme Court, the group still has some big hurdles to cross. They must collect 97,200 voter signatures by June 15 to get on the 2010 ballot. And a quirk in Nevada law requires the measure to be passed in two concurrent elections in order to amend the state constitution.

Florida Spring Break belly flop

Personhood Florida activists swarmed Spring Break hot spots earlier this month with gruesome protest signs and laps around the block by the infamous “Truth Truck” plastered with Biblical quotes and more disturbing images of miscarried fetuses.

But it’s not just bikini-clad coeds who snubbed the “egg as a person” movement like a pale, skinny guy on the beach; so has the Florida Catholic Conference.

It also didn’t go over well with Sunshine State locals and appeared to be completely ignored by hard-partying college students.

News reports and online comments on local media Web sites lit up with ticked off citizens and parents trying to shield their children from the protesters. Sixty-two percent of readers responded that Personhood Florida should not be allowed to display graphic signs at intersections on an admittedly unscientific poll on TCPalm.com, the primary newspaper serving Port St. Lucie and the Palm Beach region.

Besides the outraged replies, the publicity stunt also calls into question the group’s real engagement with the local community it claims to speak for.

While circulating petitions to capture the more than 676,811 registered voter signatures to get the measure on the 2012 ballot no one apparently asked the logical question: Just who is out in the surf in the middle of what Floridians consider “the dead of winter?”  It’s a time when beaches are teeming with “snow birds” and out-of-state students — none of whom can legally sign the petitions.

As this former Florida resident and university alumna well remembers, my classmates and I usually headed to the ski slopes in New England to escape the Spring Break hoards. Meanwhile besieged locals spent the month of March grumbling about alligator-gawking tourists causing gridlock on the roads and being lousy tippers.

Now they can also complain about putrid protest signs attempting to win support for banning abortion and family planning services.

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  • leahzero

    “Zygote Americans.”

     

    Things like this are why the rest of the world stereotypes Americans as small-minded idiots. And why they’re not always wrong.

  • elyzabeth

    So…only immigrants should have abortions?

  • lifereality

    Everyone goes through this phase. It is natural.

    Your right to life should be protected at all phases of your life, particularily if you are innocent and can not defend yourself.

  • prochoicegoth

    One’s right to life DOES NOT and SHOULD NOT interfere with one’s right to their body. A fertilized ovum is a life, but it’s NOT a person and it has NO RIGHT to stay in the woman’s body if she doesn’t want it there. Same goes for an embryo or fetus pre-viability. You CANNOT give a z/e/f a right that NO OTHER HUMAN has.

     

    Unless of course you don’t think women are humans with bodily autonomy.

  • elyzabeth

    You were a sperm cell and an unfertilized egg at one point too fyi.  A fertilized oocyte isn’t magically more than the sum of its parts.

     

    Unless you are also launching a “Save the Cum” Campaign, you don’t get to use that argument.

  • prochoicegoth

    Are they gonna sing “Every Sperm Is Sacred” whilst they march?

    +++

  • crowepps

    It’s also ‘natural’ that most of those fertilized eggs don’t make it till birth.

     

    If you were lucky enough to be one of the survivors, AND had the additional luck of coming into existence in a woman who was willing to be pregnant, good for you. Call your mom and tell her thanks for the gift of life.

     

    I don’t see how this obligates women who don’t want to be pregnant to continue their pregnancies. After all, their right to life should be protected whether they are pregnant or not. They’re not guilty of anything.

  • wholearmor

    LOL!  Egg-as-person? Someone needs an elementary biology lesson. So when did you discontinue being an egg and become a human being? 

    “One’s right to life DOES NOT and SHOULD NOT interfere with one’s right to their body.”

    So the unborn don’t have a right to their body? Why not?

    “A fertilized ovum is a life, but it’s NOT a person and it has NO RIGHT to stay in the woman’s body if she doesn’t want it there.”

    So you’re saying women are too stupid to figure out how they became pregnant or what?  If a woman doesn’t want it there, she shouldn’t put it there. An embryo is not part of a woman’s body because it can live outside her body. What other part of a woman’s body possesses that attribute?

    “You were a sperm cell and an unfertilized egg at one point too fyi.  A fertilized oocyte isn’t magically more than the sum of its parts.

    Unless you are also launching a “Save the Cum” Campaign, you don’t get to use that argument.”

    Yet another elementary lesson in biology is warranted. Saying a human being was a sperm and unfertilized egg at one time is like saying a pie was a pie when the separate ingredients were lying on the counter. I’m surprised Wendy allows these idiotic arguments in her column.  But then again, using the “egg-as-person” argument doesn’t say too much for her intellect, either.

     

     

     

  • prochoicegoth

    So the unborn don’t have a right to their body? Why not?

    Did I say that? No, I did not. The fetus has a right to its body, but whose body is the fetus inside of, connected to and sucking nutrients from? The woman. Last I checked, a woman has bodily autonomy, meaning if she doesn’t want the fetus in her body, she has every right to have it removed.

    So you’re saying women are too stupid to figure out how they became pregnant or what? If a woman doesn’t want it there, she shouldn’t put it there. An embryo is not part of a woman’s body because it can live outside her body. What other part of a woman’s body possesses that attribute?

    Wow, and you say WE need a course in biology? First off, more than half of women who abort were using some form of prevention that failed. Birth control and condoms ARE NOT 100%. Women are not idiots, as you seem to think. Consent to sex IS NOT consent to motherhood whatsoever and unless a woman can control her ovulation, she DID NOT put the fetus in her uterus. And if a fetus could survive outside the body, why does it need to be in there for 40 weeks? Prior to viability, a fetus CANNOT live outside the womb. Once again, did I say a fetus is part of the woman’s body? No, I did not. I’m getting rather sick of you putting words in my mouth.

  • elyzabeth

    “Saying a human being was a sperm and unfertilized egg at one time is like saying a pie was a pie when the separate ingredients were lying on the counter.”

     

    Actually, saying a mass of uncombined ingredients is a pie is more like saying an undifferentiated ball of stem cells is a human.  It could grow into a human, under the correct conditions.  It could grow into 8 humans given the totipotency of the blastocyst stage.  Any given cell could grow into any organ given the right environment.  Any given cell could grow into a cancer. Chances are, it won’t grow into much of anything.  Odds are, your ball of human ingredients will stop dividing, degrade, and slough out of the lumen of the uterus during the woman’s next period.

     

     

     

     

  • rebellious-grrl

    Everybody sing,

    “Every sperm is sacred. Every sperm is great. If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.”

    That song is in my head every time I hear this argument from the “sperm-firsters”

  • leahzero

    That is kind of the implication, isn’t it? Well, immigrants, and anyone else the White Christian Right doesn’t like…you know, like all those other races and religions. They’re all going to hell anyway, right?

  • julie-watkins

    You do good riffs on this. Evolution seems to have arrived at a process that puts good outcomes (“the right gene combination at the right time”) as more important than preventing miscarriages. Which make it logial, I think, to say the principle of “[attempting to] give birth is a gift” has as much (or more) validity as being “natural” as “[attempting to] give birth is an obligation”. Nature is OK with shades of grey, I wish anti-abortion people weren’t so rigid in their expectations. The idea that “fertilized egg” automatically will mean “born person (if the ‘mother’ doesn’t abort)” is just … clueless.

  • jami

    I posted about some of the possible consequences of laws like this 2 years ago.  Here are some:

  • Will a pregnant woman be able to drive in the HOV lane because there are now two people in the car? Will the traffic cops have to carry pregnancy test kits to be utilized before writing tickets to those women?
  • Will pregnant women have to pay for two tickets on public transportation? At the movies or concerts?
  • Will pregnant women who are involved in car crashes be charged with child endangerment if the crash is determined to be their fault? (Gee, pregnancy kits in patrol cars could be standard. You might see cops having women pee on little sticks by the side of the road as often as you see them have people blowing a breathalyzer.)
  • Will a pregnant woman be forbidden from entering any adult-only establishment because she is automatically accompanied by a minor person?
  • Will everyone in Colorado automatically become 9 months older? Will the federal government start paying Social Security benefits to Coloradans 9 months earlier?
  • Will registered sex offenders have to stay away from ob/gyn clinics and maternity hospitals because there are groups of fetus-Coloradan children in those places?
  • Will a pregnant woman who disobeys her doctor be liable for child abuse charges? Will doctors be required to report such women to the authorities? Who will get to decide which activities for pregnant women more strenuous than lying in bed for nine months constitute child endangerment?
  • Will all forms of contraception be forbidden in Colorado because it could potentially prevent or injure a fetus-Coloradan? Will male masturbation be prohibited because it might prevent the creation of a new fetus-Coloradan?
  • Will pregnant women be prohibited from having sex because it might expose a child to … you know … nasty parts?
  • Who would get to decide whose life is worth more in cases where pregnancy would harm or even kill the mother? What about women who get pregnant as the result of rape? No choice for them?
  • Will pregnant women be allowed to purchase life insurance on their little fetus-Coloradan in case – Heaven forbid – some terrible accident might result in the little person not actually celebrating its “coming out” day?
  • Of course, abortion would be totally illegal in Colorado, but could a pregnant woman who had an abortion outside the state of Colorado be charged with murder when she entered the state? If so, since there is no statute of limitations on murder, could a woman who had had an abortion at any time in her life be so charged? Could someone who had accompanied her be charged as an accessory to the crime?
  • crowepps

    An embryo is not part of a woman’s body because it can live outside her body.

    If an embryo “can live outside her body” then what’s the big problem with removing it?

  • crowepps

    Of course, abortion would be totally illegal in Colorado, but could a pregnant woman who had an abortion outside the state of Colorado be charged with murder when she entered the state?

    How about women who leave the State because they don’t want to live under a theocracy?  Are they going to be allowed to move away?  Will they have to have a pregnancy test before they’re allowed over the border?  Or will they pass a ‘fugitive woman act’ that authorizes ‘reluctant-mother-catchers’ to track them to their new locations and drag them back in shackles?

     

    I’m afraid nobody’s paying attention to the principle of unintended consequences here.  Alaska passed a law that no one under the age of 20 can enter a ‘smoke shop’ and now there’s a sign on the door informing women that they can’t bring their infants in but instead have to leave them in the car, possibly unattended, while they grab their smokes.

  • equalist

    They want to force the heathens to breed so they can have some more souls to save later when the children that would have been aborted but instead wound up abused and neglected all their lives wind up in homeless shelters, prisons and drug treatment centers as adults.

  • ahunt

    I’m afraid nobody’s paying attention to the principle of unintended consequences here.

     

    We’ve here on RH have been doing a pretty good job of raising pertinent questions. We just never get a remotely rational response.

     

    I’m particularly interested in how this law will impact employment opportunities for women.

     

    Will weekly pregnancy tests be mandatory for women in high risk/high stress professions, with subsequent dismissal if results are positive? Could employers discriminate against women in hiring on the basis of potential pregnancy loss?

     

    Curious minds want to know.


  • crowepps

    women in high risk/high stress professions

    Oh, goodness, no, thhey can’t allow women to be in “high risk/high stress professions” unless they’ve been sterilized or are past menopause.  High risk/high stress professions raise the risk of miscarriage!  Think of those ‘innocent lives’!

     

    Of course, they’ll continue to ignore the incidents in which their husbands beat them up, since that’s their own fault for being uppity.

  • crowepps

    We just never get a remotely rational response.

    I particularly am boggled by the simultanity of “we are going to force women who have been raped/victims of incest to have their rapist’s/abuser’s baby no matter what anguish that causes them” AND “all these exaggerations are just a smokescreen – nobody plans to be unreasonable.”

     

    It actually seems kind of unreasonable to me to force the victim of a sexual assault or incest to have a baby for her rapist/abuser, but then, I guess I just don’t understand about ‘innocence’. Apparently the ability to menstrate confers global guilt for whatever happens.

  • ahunt

    Apparently the ability to menstruate confers global guilt for whatever happens.

     

    Well there IS precedent…Pandora, Eve…. 

     

    nobody plans to be unreasonable.”

     

    Which has never stopped prosecutors/doctors in SC, FL, etc…

     

  • ahunt

    Apparently the ability to menstruate confers global guilt for whatever happens.

     

    Well there IS precedent…Pandora, Eve…. 

     

    nobody plans to be unreasonable.”

     

    Which has never stopped prosecutors/doctors in SC, FL, UT, etc…

     

  • ahunt

    Occupations…

     

    No more lady fitness instructors, air traffic controllers, surgeons, cops, paramedics, attorneys, high  level politicians, horse trainers, airline pilots, soldiers, construction/highway workers, convenience store clerks, social workers, professional athletes, and I haven’t even touched on the fields that involve exposure to radiation,  constant loud noise, and extreme temperatures.

  • crowepps

    Obviously, the solution is for women of reproductive age to stay home and devote themselves to taking care of their men, although  I’ve got to say looking back over life that most of my stress came from ‘personal relationships’ and so any woman who isn’t blissfully married probably shouldn’t have children either, since the stress of purdah, of being segregated carefully away from the money, freedom and fun, just might have negative effects on her pregnancy.

  • ahunt

    Unintended consequences? My sense is that the untended consequences of “splitting ova ” acquiring citizenship are anticipated and desired by the loons  advocating for the cause. Wholesale removal of women from public life is essential to the restoration of good order.