Pro-Life Politicians, Personhood, and the Ongoing Abortion Wars

by Gail Collins

Let’s talk personhood, people.

Personhood is an anti-abortion movement that holds that life begins at conception, giving fertilized eggs all the rights of a human being. It might make it impossible to kidnap them for in-vitro fertilization. It could outlaw some forms of contraception.

Senator Rand Paul claims every fertilized egg is protected by the 14th Amendment. Many current Senate candidates are personhood supporters, including Cory Gardner, who is running a very close race in Colorado against Mark Udall.

No! Wait! Wait! Cory Gardner just changed his mind. Obviously, this is going to take a little unraveling. Give me a minute.

The abortion issue has been on everyone’s mind lately. On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous finding that the 35-foot buffer zones around Massachusetts abortion clinics violated protesters’ freedom of speech. We do not have time to discuss this in detail, except to point out that this decision came from people who work in a building where the protesters aren’t allowed within 250 feet of the front door.

Bigger news is expected on Monday, when the court is scheduled to tell us whether business owners have a right to express their religious beliefs by eliminating certain contraceptives from their employees’ health care coverage. This is the Hobby Lobby case, which is going to bring us right back to personhood in no time at all.

The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, believes as a matter of faith that human life begins at the moment of conception. So, despite the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employee health plans cover contraceptives, the Greens draw the line at anything that they believe might endanger a fertilized egg, like Plan B, or IUDs. Many scientists would disagree with the Greens’ theory about how contraceptives work, but it doesn’t matter. Religion trumps.

Both Hobby Lobby and the personhood movement mark a turning point in our long, grueling national battle over reproductive rights. Many Americans are repelled by late-term abortion, but they don’t necessarily feel the same emotional affinity for a fertilized egg. The fact that this is actually a debate about theological dogma gets a lot clearer when you’re closer to the start of the gestational saga.

When given the opportunity, voters have made it very clear that they don’t like the idea of hurting childless couples’ chances for in-vitro fertilization out of concern for the constitutional rights of the eggs. A personhood amendment to the State Constitution was rejected in a referendum in Mississippi. Also twice in Colorado.

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SOURCE: The New York Times

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