Romney and “Personhood” (Oops)

UPDATE: The Colorado Independent’s John Tomasic:

“I was extremely concerned when I saw that Romney embraced [proposed state-constitution personhood amendments]. It’s extreme legislation and it’s deceptive. It goes far beyond anti-choice,” DeGette told reporters on a conference call. She underlined the fact that personhood initiatives would outlaw birth control pills and would place in jeopardy millions in private and public money being invested in medical stem cell research.

Coloradans have roundly voted down personhood measures twice at the ballot box in recent elections, she said.

“I think voters in Colorado reject this. Families dealing with Parkinson’s and diabetes and Alzheimers, they’re not in favor of passing edgy bills that endanger [the search for cures].”


Our friends at the Washington Post report:

The Democratic National Committee is hitting Mitt Romney over his support of life at conception legislation, which is on the ballot in Mississippi, and could crop up on ballots across the country.

In a letter from Patrick Gaspard, the executive director of the DNC, the “personhood amendments” are described as radical measures “that would elevate a fertilized human egg to the status of a legal person.”

…In an interview this week with Mike Huckabee, Romney said that he would “absolutely”have signed life at conception legislation while he was Massachusetts governor.

While social issues have taken something of a back burner in this economy-focused campaign, the “personhood” bills are being considered in key states, including Florida and Ohio, and could have a galvanizing effect, especially for women voters, who will be crucial to the election.

Colorado’s Rep. Diana DeGette is hosting a press call this morning with Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio to talk about the national push for “personhood” laws around the country, and Mitt Romney’s newly-avowed support for them–Colorado, of course, having some history on this subject. 2010’s Amendment 62 is widely credited with helping alienate women voters from GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck, and getting them out to vote in general in an election they otherwise might not have. In 2008, “personhood” initiative supporters similarly bedeviled the campaign of Senate candidate Bob Schaffer for failing to support them.

And now it’s Romney’s turn to dance in the “personhood” minefield! He didn’t have to endorse Mississippi’s “personhood” initiative, but now that he has, how does it not end badly?

Because we have yet to see this end well.

25 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. MADCO says:

    I’m not sure the south can get over his cult Mormon affiliation.   But I’m pretty sure the R’s in general don’t mind a guy who loves him some personhood amending.

    I mean, who wouldn’t want the 14th Amendment to mean exactly what it says – that anyone conceived in the USA is a citizen.

    Or that the unborn can file law suits and make political donations.

    I don’t see how it helps in the general*.  Perhaps I lack imagination.


    – outlaws most popular forms of birth control

    – outlaws abortion

    – doesn’t help the real legal immigration argument

    – It creates no jobs, nor increases national security, nor improves foreign relations with the non-Muslim extremist nations

    – doesn’t stop gays from …well you know, being gay

    – doesn’t cut any poor people off gov’t funded assistance

  2. dwyer says:

    The pro-choice crowd is in a dilemma.  

    If they do nothing, then all that MADCO outlines happens in Mississippi and maybe becomes the model for other states.

    If the pro-choice crowd does the right thing and challenges the constitutionality of such a law in federal courts, it goes right to the Supremes, who may use it as the reason to overturn Roe.  Overturning Roe does NOT automatically make abortion illegal all over the country, rather it returns the issue to the states.  Each individual state gets to decide who is a person.  Dred Scott lives.

    • DaftPunkDaftPunk says:

      Why wouldn’t the usual pro-choice advocates appeal?

      • dwyer says:

        The dilemma  is that if the pro-choice advocates appeal on the basis that the personhood state amendment is in direct conflict with the federal constitution (Roe V. Wade), the issue would go through the federal courts to the Supreme Court.  Given the 5-4 conservative majority, the fear is that the Supreme Court would use the case as the basis to overturn Roe.

        The argument that the conservatives have been making is that abortion is a state issue and not one for the feds to be involved with.  

        The fear is that the states right’s position would prevail in the Supreme Court, abortion would no longer be a civil right, guaranteed by the federal government, but rather an issue to be determined by the individual states. Abortion would automatically be outlawed in any of the states that had passed the personhood amendment to their state constitution.  Whatever other laws states have or had on the books when Roe was determined once again would become the law in that state.

        From a Constitutional point of view, it would allow each state to define a person, which is exactly what the pre-civil war Supreme Court decided in the Dred Scott decision.

        I am no an attorney, but I am very concerned about the continued assault on civil rights by the conservatives.

        These personhood amendments are part of that overall strategy.  Who knows the final result if they prevail.

        • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

          Outside of Utah and the deep south do you think any state’s voters will approve of outlawing abortion? I don’t think so. For the great majority of families they may be uncomfortable with abortion, but they do want it as an option if they need it.

          • dwyer says:

            You presume that it would be up to the voters in the state. If conservatives control the state government, then laws could be passed without a popular referendum.  Look what has happened with voter ID laws in 29 states where the repubs are in power….or even in this state where the S of S is Republican.

            As I keep saying, David, it is not about abortion, it is about taking power away from the federal government and making civil rights that are now a matter of constitutional protection guaranteed by the federal government into a states’ rights issue in which citizens would have no appeal to the federal government and constitutional rights would be diminished.

            Outside … the deep south

            Don’t you think people in the deep south are entitled to civil rights?  My god, that was precisely the issue back in the fifties.  The majority of voters in the South believed in segregation and Jim Crow and denying equal access and opportunity to everyone, regardless of race, creed or color.  Is that what you support?

            Do you believe that Civil rights are a matter for the majority to vote on and if the “voters” want to , they can deny civil rights to individuals.  For example, the “voters” might allow cancer survivors to be discriminated against in employment and housing and medical care.  Is that okay with you?

            Or, the voters might decide that white women could not get abortions because the white race is declining.

            Voters might decide to make abortion mandatory for Hispanic, blacks and Orientals because the first two categories are increasing too fast and the latter are too smart.

            • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

              I also think it should be created legislatively. The anti-abortion candidates have gotten a free ride from it being mandated by the court so they can pose with laws they know will be found unconstitutional. Feeds their base and the majority doesn’t get too upset.

              If it suddenly matters, then I think you’ll see a lot of those anti-abortion politicians out of office in the next election.

              • dwyer says:

                First of all, the right to an abortion in the first trimester is a civil right.  It is a civil right guaranteed by the

                federal constitution based on a Supreme Court decision, not a legislative one.

                Legislation does not create a federal civil right unless it is part of the Constitutional Amendment process.  To amend the Constitution of the United States, 2/3s of the House and the Senate must  approve the Amendment then it goes to the states and 3/4s of the state legislatures must approve the amendment.

                In the almost forty years since Roe, no Amendment guaranteeing the right to abortion has been introduced in Congress.  There was one vote for a Human Life Amendment in the Senate (I think it was the Senate) back in the earlier 80s, but it failed to make it through the other House of Congress.  This fact, in and of itself, is very interesting.

                Welcome to America Gov 101.

                • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

                  That’s one of the reasons why I think having the court make the decision is so bad. What’s to stop a conservative court from vacating Row and finding that at 1 month a fetus is a person?

                  • dwyer says:

                    The Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is.

                    We have come full circle with this thread. The danger with the Court revisiting Roe is that it may choose to over turn it.  That is the dilemma that the pro-choice forces face.

                    However you opinion doesn’t matter.  The way our system is set up, the Court makes the call.  Absent a constitutional amendment, that is just how things are.

                    If you don’t like it, then work for a Constitutional Amendment.  

                • PERA hopeful says:

                  See, for example, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, etc.  See, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Acts.  Not constitutional, but still federal civil rights.

                  Please do not think I am suggesting a federal statute concerning abortion.  I’m just saying you misspoke (miswrote?) when you said “[l]egislation does not create a federal civil right unless it is part of the Constitutional Amendment process.”

          • MADCO says:

            – South Carolina

            – Nebraska

            – Kansas

            – Virginia

            –  Arizona

            – Dakotas

            – Iowa

            – Missouri

            – Kentucky

            – Tennesee

            – Orange County

            And others.  I’m reluctant to say it (partly because he/she is from Denver and therefore not really in a position to comment) but Dwyer is right.  You have no idea how this would shake down in the various states.   And women would die needlessly to prove the point.

          • UglyAmericanUglyAmerican says:

            David –

            What happens when your daughter moves to one of these states and for whatever reason needs an abortion? Abortion needs to be protected as a civil right.

            • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

              My point is that I think it’s possible it would not be made illegal anywhere and definitely not outside the bible belt. It’s easy for Republicans to pass legislation they know the supreme court will strike down because no one gets too worried. But if it’s suddenly for real, then I think you’ll see a big change in what can be passed.

  3. caroman says:

    Yesterday, Chris Matthews referred to Mitt Romney as a switch-hitter, i.e., someone who hits from both sides of the plate.

    I think we may have stumbled upon our new “Buckpedal”:  Switch-Hit Mitt.  

    “Now hitting for the MA Governor’s position, hitting left-handed Mitt Romney.”

    “Now hitting for the GOP presidential nomination, hitting right-handed Mitt Romney.”

    This is especially true regarding Switch-Hit’s positions on abortion.

  4. DaftPunkDaftPunk says:

    I think it was Rachel Maddow who showed a video of a young Iowa woman explaining to Mittens how personhood could ban the pill.

    While the pill mainly inhibits ovulation and sperm entering the upper genital tract, it certainly can have a post-conception effect and prevent implantation.  This has led to the “Pill Kills” movement which claims that oral contraceptives and IUDs cause early abortions.  (I would argue that abortion terminates a pregnancy, which doesn’t start until implantation, but the antis aren’t concerned about pregnancy, they’re concerned about the “human being” the zygote represents.) is complaining that Planned Parenthood is being disingenuous about the personhood movement’s ability to ban common contraception (Planned Parenthood Caught Misleading on Birth Control Pills), while elsewhere on their website the same author acknowledges that their movement hates the pill for exactly that reason.

    “The birth control pill is not only killing preborn children and women, it is killing our environment,” said Judie Brown, president of American Life League

    They are basically lying that fears about banning contraceptives are a scare tactic against the initiative, when it’s a plus in their eyes.  

    Whether they hate the pill because of its potential post-fertilization effect, or because it empowers women to be independent beings with liberated sexuality is unclear.  It’s probably both.

    Regardless, this is a powerful issue to slam Mittens on once he gets the nomination.  Regardless of Pollyannas who don’t want Dems to talk about social issues, this will be a great weapon against Willard.  It’s an extreme position which will alienate a large number of unaffiliated women; just ask Ken Buck  It also fuels the inevitable flip-flopper image he will be stuck with considering his 2002 Massachusetts stand:

    Melissa Kogut, the NARAL group’s executive director in 2002, recalled Wednesday that as she and other participants in the meeting began to pack their belongings to leave after the 45-minute session, Romney became “emphatic that the Republican Party was not doing themselves a service by being so vehemently anti-choice.”

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