There are 9 states currently in some stage of adding a “Personhood Amendment” to their respective state constitutions. This legislation will have dire consequences if it passes. These amendments seek to define life as beginning at the moment of fertilization; in other words, when a sperms implants into an egg. In essence this would criminalize any activity that endangers a fertilized egg. Considering only about 50% of fertilized eggs will actually result in an established pregnancy; the rationale behind this seems flawed, but the movement is gaining support in these state’s governments.
Should these bills pass, not only will the women in these states lose their right to choose to have an abortion; they will become criminals for simply using birth control. Many forms of birth control (including some forms of the pill, plan b, and IUD’s) not only prevent fertilization, but in case fertilization does occur they can act to keep an egg from implanting. This would be considered endangering a person and thus a criminal offense in states where a personhood amendment is active.
But flying in the face of these attempts, are precedents set not only in the U.S. but in the international community as well. Most women today know about Roe v. Wade and its impact on reproductive rights, but there is also Griswold v. Connecticut. In 1965 the U.S. Supreme Court determined that a state cannot interfere with people’s access to birth control on the basis that doing so violates our right to privacy. Period, and yet this exactly what these personhood amendments seek to do and as a result would be violating our right to privacy as guaranteed by the constitution.
On the international level there is the Teheran Human Rights Conference in 1968, which states that all women have the right to family planning. In 1994 this was further expanded by the International Conference on Population and Development to include “that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so. Implicit in this last condition are the right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice.”
By prohibiting women from using their preferred method of birth control, be it the pill, the patch or the morning after pill, these legislations would violate women’s rights as guaranteed not only by our government but those that the international community has sanctioned. For more information check out the center for reproductive rights at http://www.reproductiverights.org/ To contact your local government officials and let them know you want your health rights upheld go to http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml
Sources: Sadik, N. (1997, February). The right to reproductive and sexual health. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/women/womrepro.htm
American Women’s Services