Personhood Amendments Come To California

Personhood amendments: that example of radical anti-choice ideology that goes SO far, even regular anti-choicers are like "Err, no, dude, not that way, okay?"

I mean, we're talking about a movement that gives only the barest of lip service to disavowing actual murderers in their midst, and they will actually come out and oppose these personhood amendments.  Not because they disagree with the premise, more because they think it's too far too fast and the backlash will set them back in terms of PR.

Personhood amendments, for those without their fingers on the pulse of reproductive justice battles *preen preen, smug smug ;-) *, are amendments with Orwellian names like "Human Rights Amendment" and "Respect for All Life Amendment", which declare the legal term "person" to include "all humans at all stages of development from conception to natural death" or some variation on that basic wording.  They're a blatant attempt to end-run around Roe by ensuring that laws against assault, murder, abuse, etc - designed to apply to born people - also apply to fetuses.  They could have a whole host of fucked-up effects, from banning abortion (the core intent) to banning certain forms of contraception, like the IUD and the pill, and banning in vitro fertilization procedures.  They're also intended to provide the vehicle for a case to go to the Supreme Court in the hopes that this court will overturn Roe entirely - which would then allow a number of states with "trigger measures" on the books to immediately go into effect and ban abortion entirely.

They are, in other words, the most extreme anti-choice legislation ever, and Really Fucking Bad News.  (Also ridiculous, medically and scientifically speaking, as we have no way of identifying the moment of conception, only implantation; but then, we all know anti-choicers are not on speaking terms with science.)

Colorado overwhelmingly rejected their personhood amendment - twice.  Ohio has a measure on the ballot for this coming year, although the Attorney General and Personhood Ohio are wrangling over the summary language to be included on the ballot - the AG refused to certify their summary because it was misleading, and Personhood Ohio is appealing.  Mississippi is the "state to watch" for 2012 personhood amendments, with an amendment on the ballot and frighteningly high approval rate in polls.  Personhood USA's stated goal is to get these awful amendments on the ballot in every state across the nation.

And now, it seems, California's time has come.  The absurdly-titled "California Human Rights Amendment" has been submitted to the Attorney General's office for certification.  The AG is to certify the proposed title, language, and summary, after which proponents can start gathering signatures to put it on the ballot.

Frankly, this is fucking California.  We won't even pass a parental notification law (although they keep trying; 3 out of the last 4 elections.  You'd think they'd eventually learn it's not going to happen).  So normally I'd just scoff and write it off as anti-choice fever dreams.  Except for the language they're using.  Take a look:
"The term "person" applies to all living human organisms from the beginning of their biological development, regardless of the means by which they were procreated, method of reproduction, age, race, sex, gender, physical well-being, function, or condition of physical or mental dependency and/or disability. "
Compare that with the Mississippi version...
Section 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, "The term 'person' or 'persons' shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."
Or the Colorado version...
 Section 32. Person defined. As used in sections 3, 6, and 25 of Article II of the state constitution, the term "person" shall apply to every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being.
Not that I have no faith in my fellow Californians - okay, maybe I don't; sorry, y'all, but you *did* pass Prop H8 - but I notice they've padded out the California version of this crap with all the sort of anti-discrimination-law-language that will appeal to the "token liberal" type - you know, the person who believes in human rights but isn't inclined to do much research on things before voting?  And I don't think it's accidental that they've sort of tucked this "*cough*beginningofbiologicaldevelopment*cough*" bit in among a whole lot of "age race sex gender disability protections yay" fluff, all of which is *already* covered in California's nondiscrimination laws.

No, this is pretty definitely an attempt to appeal to our collective liberal identity as The Right Sort of Person, you know, the kind of person who supports human rights and will vote in favor of them, by tacking on the name of "Human Rights Amendment" and adding lots of irrelevant reiterations of current nondiscrimination laws in the hopes that we won't look too hard past that. 

I can't decide if I find it infuriating or amusing. 

Actually, I take that back; I know exactly what I find it: frightening.  It's a targeted message that shows an unfortunate level of understanding of the bulk of moderate voters here in California, and I am not at all sure of pro-choice organizations' ability to mount an extensive, expensive, well-publicized education campaign to combat the lazy feel-good vote in favor of something called a "Human Rights Amendment", no matter what that amendment would actually do.


Tempest in a Teapot said...

This is scary, and you're right, it's the perfect trap for the "t-shirt liberal."

Can I talk about Mississippi for a second, though?  Why do they think they even need a personhood amendment?  They already have some of the worst stats for comprehensive sex ed, teen pregnancy rates, availability of contraception & abortion... You win, Mississippi, you can have all the babies you want.  Just don't get back to me until you have decent support systems in place for single parents (especially those in poverty), neglected & abused kids, your insufficient educational system, and all that jazz.

Jadelyn said...

"t-shirt liberal" is exactly the sort of phrase I was awkwardly groping for, thank you, lol! 

On the subject of Mississippi, I think that's precisely *why* they're pushing the amendment there, because with their already-awful laws and attitudes toward sex and pregnancy a personhood amendment is practically just a formality.  So they see it as an easy target, which will inevitably be challenged in court, and gives them an easy path to SCOTUS with it. 

I always feel awful for people trapped in states like that, though, living the anti-choice nightmare: forced to have babies because nobody taught you how not to and you can't access abortion care once you're pregnant, then dumped off to the side and left to fend for yourself.  :-/

vickiea13 said...

1.  All of these sound like they are trying to give all sexual and reproductive rights to the men - condoms ok (yeah, name a guy that actually likes to use them) but female birth control is not.  The rhythm method??!!  Give me a break!

2.  Mississippi has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country - are they trying for a higher number??

3.  It's still California, but it has been moving slightly "righter" over the past few years.  See Prop 8.  I do fear this will pass, but only because the people who mount the defense of these things isn't hitting the right points.  See Prop 8. 

Jadelyn said...

And yet the male pill keeps getting stalled for lack of funding because of a perceived lack of interest.  >.<


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