Get to know the ‘Personhood’ Amendment

Opponents of abortion rights have been pushing constitutional amendments — at the federal and state level — for nearly four decades, so at a certain level, the “personhood” proposal on the ballot in Mississippi may not seem extraordinary. After all, as is well known, pro-life activists consider embryos and fetuses to be people.

But this isn’t just another state initiative.

A constitutional amendment facing voters in Mississippi on Nov. 8, and similar initiatives brewing in half a dozen other states including Florida and Ohio, would declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, effectively branding abortion and some forms of birth control as murder.

With this far-reaching anti-abortion strategy, the proponents of what they call personhood amendments hope to reshape the national debate.

“I view it as transformative,” said Brad Prewitt, a lawyer and executive director of the Yes on 26 campaign, which is named for the Mississippi proposition. “Personhood is bigger than just shutting abortion clinics; it’s an opportunity for people to say that we’re made in the image of God.”

No matter what one thinks of the campaign, the part about this being “bigger than just shutting abortion clinics” is absolutely true. The “personhood” measure would ban every possible form of abortion, but it also goes much further.

There’s been some great reporting on this lately, including this piece from Kate Sheppard who explained this week that an approved “personhood” amendment would “likely outlaw several types of birth control and possibly make all forms of hormonal contraception illegal.” Irin Carmon had a related piece, noting that the initiative “would almost certainly ban common forms of birth control like the IUD and the morning-after pill, call into question the legality of the common birth-control pill, and even open the door to investigating women who have suffered miscarriages.”

Michelle Goldberg, meanwhile, added that the “personhood” amendment would also very likely prohibit couples from using in vitro fertilization (IVF) to have children.

In other words, we’re talking about a very radical proposal. The next question is, do national Republicans support this?

Mitt Romney was recently asked whether he would have supported a similar measure as governor, and he replied, “Absolutely.” So, does this mean he supports the “personhood” measure in Mississippi? Keith Mason, co-founder of a group supporting the Mississippi’s initiative, Personhood USA, told Politico, “We always seem to get two stories from Romney.”

Imagine that.

Last week, Rachel Maddow took Romney to task, and offered a helpful lesson on the sexual-health basics, in case the former governor needed a refresher. Rachel added that Romney “apparently does not understand” the idea that he, as Romney himself put it, “absolutely” endorses.

If some enterprising campaign reporters could get to the bottom of this, and determine whether Romney supports “personhood” amendments or not, voters would benefit from knowing the answer.