Recently in Mississippi a proposed “Personhood Amendment” failed. The amendment was a pro-life measure that would have granted legal “personhood” to a fetus from the moment of fertilization. Had this measure been successful it not only would have banned abortion, it could have impacted the legality of certain birth control options as well as aspects of in vitro fertilization. It was soundly beat by Mississippi voters, but apparently that has not stopped other states from attempting similar initiatives.
Personhood Nevada attempted to get an amendment added to the 2012 ballot. As in Mississippi, the language was intentionally left vague because they know the vast majority of people support birth control and in vitro fertilization. Banning these or at least birth control is a central goal of “person” groups so they know to achieve this goal they have to be subtle about it. In Mississippi this vagueness was combated by pro-choice, pro-family planning and pro-fertility treatment groups using grassroots efforts to explain the ramifications of the amendment to as many people as possible.
In Nevada, they won’t need to. According to the Florida Independent “Nevada law requires that all initiatives be accompanied by an official explanation of their effects, so that voters can make more informed decisions. But the explanation accompanying the Nevada personhood measure only discussed its effects on the legality of abortion, and said nothing about the effects it could have on other health care services.” Because of this law, the ACLU brought Nevada Personhood to court claiming that their wording in their initiative doesn’t properly explain the consequences of the proposed amendment.
Judge James E. Wilson agreed and re-wrote the initiative to say, “The initiative would protect a prenatal person regardless of whether or not the prenatal person would live, grow, or develop in the womb or survive birth; prevent all abortions even in the case of rape, incest, or serious threats to the woman’s health or life, or when a woman is suffering from a miscarriage, or as an emergency treatment for an ectopic pregnancy. The initiative will impact some rights Nevada women currently have to access certain fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization. The initiative will impact some rights Nevada women currently have to utilize some forms of birth control, including the “pill;” and to access certain fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization. The initiative will affect embryonic stem cell research, which offers potential for treating diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and others.”
So now when supporters of the initiative try to get the signatures needed to get the amendment on the ballot, they will have to explain why they are opposed to birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research. While they are likely to get some signatures maybe even enough to get on the ballot, with the consequences so clearly spelled out for the voters, the initiative is even less likely to pass through a vote than it was in Mississippi.
Groups in Ohio and Arkansas have also submitted proposal for “personhood” amendments. In Ohio the Attorney General has previously rejected the measure for being too vague, so the group rewrote and resubmitted it. In Virginia, a Republican as already submitted a bill for next year to make fetal “personhood” happen in the state, this time through the legislature instead of an amendment. We’ll keep you posted on how these attempts turn out.