New bills in Alabama would grant personhood at the ‘moment of fertilization’
UPDATE: April 5, 11 a.m. This article was amended for clarification and adds a response from Personhood USA to claims about personhood initiatives made by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Alabama lawmakers last week introduced three heavily-sponsored bills that in concert would change how a person is defined in the state and potentially make abortion in all circumstances illegal.
Senate Bill 301, introduced by Sen. Phil Williams (R-Cherokee, Etowah), is a proposal to amend the Alabama Code of 1975 to change the definition of the term “person” to mean: “any human being from the moment of fertilization or the functional equivalent thereof.”
Williams’ bill — read for the first time last Tuesday — has 18 co-sponsors and has been referred to the Senate committee on Health.
Rep. John Merrill (R-Tuscaloosa) filed an identical personhood bill in the House on Thursday, House Bill 405. But taking a step further from just amending the state’s legal code, Merrill also filed House Bill 409, which is a ballot proposal to amend the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, so that every time the word “person” is used in that document it would include “‘all humans from the moment of fertilization.” If HB 409 goes forward, Alabamans would have the opportunity to vote on this amendment either in special election at the end of the year or in 2012.
These bills, which have been referred to the House Health committee, both have 31 co-sponsors, which, according to the attorney Ben DuPré of the Foundation for Moral Law, is “astounding” and a good indication that the laws will pass. DuPré and the national organization Personhood USA helped draft the earlier versions of the legislation, though several anti-aboriton rights groups, such as Alabama Citizens for Life, have backed the bills.
“We must protect all Alabama children,” said Sen. Williams in a Personhood USA statement. “At the same time we have to send a message that Alabamians value the sanctity of life. Every heartbeat is as important as the next.”
In the same statement, DuPré is quoted as saying: “America used to define the meaning of ‘person’ along racial lines; now we draw the line at the womb. Personhood legislation finally gives equal protection of the laws to the unborn as well as the born, and from the first moment of human life.”
These proposed laws do not address abortion or the legal implications therein, but DuPré told The American Independent that if the personhood bills pass, then Alabama lawmakers will have to address “whatever flows from that.”
“I’m encouraged the legislators are doing this,” he said. “Alabama is a pro-life state, but the laws have not caught up to that.”
DuPré said that while the code-amending bill would likely be easier to pass than the constitution-amending law, the latter would make the strongest legal statement and give Alabama voters the chance to “protect all life.” He also noted that Alabama’s constitution defines corporations as persons, but not unborn babies.
Asked how the this type of state constitutional amendment would stand up against U.S. law, which grants the legal right to an abortion, DuPré said that within the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, there is a particular passage that opens up the case for personhood:
The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a person within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. . . . If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 156-57 (1973).
“Roe v. Wade leaves a door open and the Personhood amendment walks right through that,” DuPré said.
Personhood bills and amendments are seeing action throughout the country; bills recently passed the North Dakota House and an Iowa House subcommittee, and a personhood constitutional amendment has been proposed in Mississippi. Other personhood legislation has been introduced in Georgia, Montana, Texas and Oklahoma, according to Personhood USA. According to the group’s website, Personhood USA has personhood petitions active in 50 states, with a total of 921,831 signatures, to date.
In a statement from the American Civil Liberties Union from February 2010 titled “Legal Challenges to Personhood Initiatives,” referencing a failed personhood initiative that was proposed in Colorado in November 2008 (the first time such a state constitutional amendment was officially proposed), the ACLU stated:
This constitutional amendment would have not only prohibited abortions but could have been used to block stem cell research and curtail access to in vitro fertilization and common forms of contraception, among other reproductive health services. Moreover, it could have affected thousands of laws – from when property rights are granted to inheritance rights to who can file a lawsuit.
In response to the ACLU’s argument that amending a state constitution to redefine the term “persons” to include all humans from the moment of fertilization could have ramifications other than making abortion in all forms illegal (because it would reposition abortion as murder), Personhood USA has challenged the ACLU’s position that a personhood initiative could have effects on stem cell research, contraception, and in vitro fertilization.
From Personhood USA (its challenges to ACLU’s arguments all contain caveats):
A personhood amendment could not block stem cell research or treatments. Personhood amendments and legislation clearly state that every human being is a person, which only makes it illegal to kill human beings. Therefore, the only stem cell research affected by a personhood amendment would be embryonic stem cell research, which has largely proven to be unsuccessful. Adult stem cell research (which has proven widely successful and is currently being used to successfully treat over 70 diseases and injuries). The most successful stem cell research – which does not require the killing of a human being – will still be legal.
A personhood amendment could not make ANY contraception illegal. Contraception does not kill a human being, it prevents conception. (contra+ception). Only pills that are proven to cause chemical abortions would be banned by a personhood amendment.
Lastly, a personhood amendment would make in vitro fertilization SAFER. In vitro would absolutely still be legal; the only change is that it would be illegal to purposely kill children created via in vitro – a practice to which many fertility clinics already adhere, and nearly every mom undergoing in vitro would agree with.
In the 2010 Supreme Court of Nevada case: Personhood Nevada, et al., v. Emmily Bristol et al., an appeal from the district court determined that the proposed initiative to amend the Nevada Constitution in 2010 to redefine the term “person” to include a fertilized egg and all subsequent stages of prenatal development violated Nevada’s constitution because it was “too general and vague” to identify a single subject and because “its widespread effects were neither sufficiently related and germane to a single subject nor described in a manner that would inform the petition signers and voters of the initiative’s varied consequences.”
The plaintiffs appealed the district court’s decision, but the Nevada Supreme Court ruled the appeal “moot” because the appellants did not submit sufficient signatures on the initiative petition by the June 15 submission deadline, thus the proposed initiative became ineligible for vote in the 2010 general election.
Does that mean that the parent can declare the child off her taxes if she is impregnated–sorry, FERTILIZED, on december 31?
This means we’ll be able to sue the preborn for theft of services, bodily harm, and squatting! Perhaps vandalism, destruction of property, and theft of goods(nutrients), too.
I held out as long as I could, but I’m officially embarrassed to be from Alabama. This has really just gone too far.
So glad to see that a state is taking a stand against abortion. Technology has come so far and with it, I don’t see how we can continue to “terminate” a child. (it is a human, not a frog, pig, etc.
Lynn, I don’t care if its a full grown man in my uterus. As long as it lives inside me, I’m the one who should decide its fate.
Lynn, don’t worry, it’s just the US. Most other nations actually aren’t falling back to similar barbary, and thankfully continue to support abortion. Of course, stuff like this shows that the US is more and more becoming a theocracy, putting even unborn lumps of cells over the lives of women.
Would this make IUDs and contraceptive pills illegal?
Barbarism like this is sad.
You’d think if the anti-choicers were actually pro-life they’d be working to get Alabama’s infant mortality rate down (#5 state for infant deaths in 2005) instead of denying safe medical care to women.
ALABMAMA – DOOMED!!!!!!
Let’s let each state define what a person is, and then we can choose to live in states with those who share our views. If Alabama passes this law, I’d be inclined to move there.
Would this law mean that it’s no longer illegal in Alabama to kill an adult who has an identical twin, since it doesn’t end the human life that began when their egg was fertilized?
The corporation argument is a red herring. Corporations are presumably defined as persons in that it’s illegal to steal their property, not to terminate their existence, which is done all the time. Everyone agrees newborn babies can’t be legally killed but also don’t have property rights, so this isn’t about granting fetuses the same property rights as babies.
What’s next after this?
Will the anti-choice fascists institute a “Pee-on-the-stick” policy once a month for all sexually active women? (And how will they tell which women are sexually active?). How will they determine pregnancies that terminate by “Act of God” (the vast majority of them) versus those that are terminated on purpose? Do they plan on taking God to task for being the biggest abortionist in the world?
So many questions…
If not for the illegal and cruel hardship this would cause Alabama women, I’d be rooting for this bill to be signed into law.
This nonsense would certainly be struck down by the SCOTUS and would reaffirm/perpetuate the Roe precedent, whereas the more insidious access-limiting bills cropping up around the country aren’t as likely to elicit a firm SC smackdown.
As I from outside of the USA would somebody enlighten me on what the legal position would be if a pregnant woman crossed state lines to a state where this “personhood” does not apply to have an abortion and then returned to Alabama?
@Jamie: it is a federal crime to travel with a person over state lines with the intent to do something with that person where it would be illegal had the person not crossed state lines. In most cases today, this deals with transporting persons under the age of 18 to states with a lower age of consent in order to facilitate sexual activity. It is similarly illegal for a United States resident to travel to another country for similar purposes (just in case you wanted to pose that hypothetical, too).
[...] New Bills in Alabama Would Grant Personhood at the ‘Moment of Fertilization’. Read more [...]
I would recommend this health insurance plan i found through “Penny Health Insurance” to anyone with a growing family who is looking to minimize their medical expenses.
I am amazed. I wonder how this will effect Stem Cell research? The tide is turning.
Disclosure: Tough choices in life are never easy. IMO I agree with both sides and see both sides opinions.
The ‘good’ thing about this is that whenever a woman has a spontaneous abortion, we’ll be able to hold a coronial enquiry into the death of the ‘person’ and if the woman has done anything which might have predisposed to the abortion (such as drinking alcohol, smoking or engaging in stressful activities such as working) and we don’t like her, then we’ll be able to persecute, … er, prosecute her for unlawful death.
This bill is great. I’ve been crusading for years to make it illegal for pregnant women to drink alcohol. Finally we’re going to be able to prosecute any pregnant woman who drinks alcolol for serving alcohol to a minor. Same with all drugs. It’s about time. Such women should be arrested and held in birthing prisons until the child is born and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Fetal alcoholism is no joke!
Christianity is the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.
So lemme get this straight. If I have a miscarriage, does that mean I could be charged for murder or manslaughter? Wow what a bunch of misogynists!
I hope all the christian women who supported this have miscarriages, then they’ll know how it feels to be victimised by this christian reich.
Wortschätze – das können aber doch nicht nur Neuschöpfungen sein, oder? Schätze sind doch meist alt, lgeien seit Jahrhunderten in der Erde begraben, vergraben von längst verstorbenen Piraten, und mutige Forscher suchen sie. Machen sich mit der Schatzkarte auf den Weg und buddeln an der richtigen Stelle ein Loch, um die alten Schätzchen zu bergen.Mein Sohn ist im Flegelalter und Deine Tochter schon bald ein Backfisch .
All women would be required to have their mentral discharge examined for any spontaneously aborted “humans” and, if discovered, a birth certificate issued, a Social Security number obtained, and an investigation launched to determine if the “death” was accidental. The offical ages now set for things like when to start school and getting a driver’s license would have to be changed, or accept that people would be able to do those things earlier (younger) than before. Freezing fertilized eggs would be considered abuse of the “human” and jail time would be required. Ectopic pregnancies would be required to be allowed to continue. Any pregnant woman’s actions which is at all deemed to be detrimental to the “person in her womb” can be categorized as criminal.
Yeah, this is a great idea.
There’s a difference in being pro-life and being anti-choice. This is clearly anti-choice. At the moment of conception, those cells aren’t even considered a fetus. Fetus being defined as:
the young of an animal in the womb or egg, especially in the later stages of development when the body structures are in the recognizable form of its kind, in humans after the end of the second month of gestation.
What’s next on the agenda? Outlawing oral contraceptives?
I’m very sorry to see that people even entertain thoughts like this.
[...] into effect that circumvents the very protection for which Roe v. Wade was intended and which may lead to draconian attempts at defining life or creating such narrow access that the possibilities available are no safer than the ones to which we promised we would never [...]
Der kellurulte Entstehungsraum dieses Ansatzes und der Lösungsorientierung sind die USA, denen die Haltung von Erfolgsgeschichten erzählen, anpacken und Lösungen finden näher liegt als den Europäern, die in vielen Dingen skeptischer und fehlerorientierter sind (Was genau läuft falsch? Warum?). Aber gerade deswegen ist bei uns dieser Ansatz so wohltuend, wenn man ihn einsetzt!Diese Erfahrung mach ich immer wieder, egal ob in Beratung oder Coaching. Er stärkt die Selbstkompetenz und motiviert auf intrinisische Weise. Unternehmen, die noch ein bisschen vorsichtig sind, haben zum Beispiel die Möglichkeit erst mal mit einem Teambuilding nach diesem Ansatz zu beginnen. Zur Zeit leiten wir ein Appreciative-Inquiry-Projekt in einem österreichischen Unternehmen, das global agiert – mit den rund 120 Mitarbeitern in der Zentrale. Und die Resonanz ist sehr positiv
[...] o feto. Observe o comentário do Chuck, na notícia que deu ensejo à minha postagem sobre o Alabama: “…This bill is great. I’ve been crusading for years to make it illegal for pregnant [...]
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