The sleeper issue of 2014: ‘Personhood’


Taliban2012 was a banner year for the GOP war on women with old white males commenting on “forcible rape” and “legitimate rape,” and lady parts “shutting that whole thing down.” Rape Comments Cost Anti-Choice Candidates Their Seats.

The anti-choice zealots of the Christian Reconstructionist and Dominionist wing of the GOP appear to be headed down an even more divisive path in 2014 by embracing the “Personhood” amendment from Personhood USA.

The constitutional amendment would define a fertilized egg as a person and outlaw many forms of contraception. I would point out that it would also give a fertilized egg constitutional rights superior to the mother, whose constitutional rights would of necessity be suspended from the moment of conception until birth. No man would ever suffer such a deprivation of constitutional rights, hence the violation of equal protection and due process of law under this radical concept.

The “Personhood” amendment went down to spectacular defeats in the state of Colorado in 2008 and 2010, and even in the reddest of red states, Mississippi, in 2012.

Colorado 2008         Colorado 2010        Mississippi

No  73%                                No  71%                             No  59%

Yes 27%                               Yes 29%                             Yes 41%

Despite these defeats, anti-choice fanatics are undeterred (that’s what makes them fanatics). Greg Sargent writes, Coming this fall in the Senate races: Big fights over Personhood:

The issue isn’t being discussed at all by Washington prognosticators these days. But you can bet that some of the most hard fought Senate races this fall will feature big fights over “Personhood” measures, which have declared that full human rights begin at the moment of fertilization.

A number of GOP Senate candidates are on record supporting Personhood in some form. Once primary season is over, and the Senate general elections get underway in earnest, you are likely to see Democrats attack Republicans over the issue — broadening the battle for female voters beyond issues such as pay equity to include an emotionally fraught cultural argument that Dems have used to their advantage in the past.

This has already appeared in the Colorado Senate race, but it will likely become an issue in other races, too. In Colorado, the Republican candidate, GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, renounced his previous support for Personhood after entering the contest, admitting it would “restrict contraception,” but Dems seized on the reversal to argue that Gardner only supports protecting women’s health when politically necessary.

Gardner co-sponsored the “Life at Conception Act,” which provides for Constitutional protection of the right to life of each “preborn human person,” defined as existing from the “moment of fertilization.” The Pro-Life Alliance describes this as a “Personhood” measure.

Other GOP Senate candidates are on record in similar fashion. Co-sponsors of the Life at Conception Act include Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rep. Steve Daines of Montana, both expected general election candidates. Meanwhile, according to McClatchy, three leading GOP Senate candidates in North Carolina — Thom Tillis, Greg Brannon, and Mark Harris — all favor a “Personhood” constitutional amendment that would “grant legal protections to a fertilized human egg and possibly ban some forms of birth control.”

In Georgia, three top Senate candidates — Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, and Jack Kingston — all co-sponsored the “Sanctity of Human Life Act,” which gives “full human rights to human zygotes from the moment of fertilization,” as Laura Bassett puts it. In Iowa, state senator Joni Ernst — who is running against Dem Bruce Braley — supported a “Personhood” amendment to the state constitution. In Michigan, Terri Lynn Land didn’t mention rape or incest as exceptions to her anti-abortion stance in an interview with Politico. In Louisiana, Rep. Bill Cassidy — who is running against Mary Landrieu — was marked down by the Louisiana Family Forum as opposing abortion in cases of rape and incest (a spokesperson said he is “staunchly pro life”).

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One model to look to is the 2012 Virginia Senate race, when Democrats savaged Republican George Allen with ads highlighting his support for Personhood legislation, suggesting he would infringe on women’s rights and jeopardize their health in service of a hidebound, reactionary agenda.

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Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report, tells me Dems will likely use Personhood to appeal to persuadable GOP-leaning women — even as they push a women’s economic agenda designed to boost core turnout among female base voters.

“Democrats will use this to appeal to women beyond their natural base — moderate Republican-leaning women who tend to vote against the GOP on this issue,” Duffy said. “Part of the point is to get them to show up. If this issue drives them to the polls, they’re not voting for Republicans.”

While this sleeper issue is emerging in U.S. Senate races, I would remind you that this is Arizona where Cathi Herrod and her Christian Taliban at the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) and the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) hold disproportionate sway over Tea-Publican politicians in this state.  Cathi Herrod serves on Doug Ducey’s gubernatorial campaign committee.

I challenge the political media elite in this state to get Arizona’s congressional candidates on the record where they stand on the Life at Conception Act/Sanctity of Human Life Act and/or the Personhood amendment. We know that Arizona’s anti-choice zealot Rep. Trent Franks would support it, but where do the other Tea-Publican members of Congress and candidates for Congress in Arizona stand? That’s a “question for Martha McSally,” and other candidates.

I also challenge the political media elite in this state to get Arizona’s candidates for governor and attorney general on the record where they stand on the Life at Conception Act/Sanctity of Human Life Act and/or the Personhood amendment. I am sure “Cathi’s clown” Doug Ducey is in Herrod’s back pocket, but what about the other candidates?

The voters of Arizona have a right to an answer before election day.  These candidates should not be allowed to sneak in a secret anti-choice agenda in January that was never raised during the campaign.


  1. Slippery slope. Just how will this “Personhood” mandate be enforced? Will all miscarriages be investigated? Will women of child-bearing age enjoying a glass of wine be hauled in for mandatory pregnancy tests?

    I can visualize a world in which household garbage is inspected for Kotex and tampon boxes. Crazy, I know, but think of the element we are dealing with here.

    How any woman votes Republican is beyond any reason.

  2. I’d also get them on record for what they think should happen to women who get abortions under the criminal ban they want enacted.

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